This week, the National Weather Service has predicted the first full week of 90+ temperatures for the Washington Metropolitan area. The dangerous heat and humidity will produce index values “feels like” 100 to 105 and perhaps 110 degrees. Montgomery County health and public safety officials are encouraging residents to find places where they can stay cool, and to take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses and dangerous situations.
Libraries, recreation centers and pools are good places to cool off, along with shopping malls and movie theatres. To quickly find the location of public facilities, go to http://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/mymontgomery and type in your location. The website includes the locations of pools, parks, libraries, regional services center, recreation centers, Metro stations, hospitals and golf courses. Residents with questions about specific locations and hours of operation should call 3-1-1 or 240-777-0311 from a cell phone. Anyone without air conditioning and unable to get to a cool facility should call the Montgomery County Crisis Center at 240-777-4000 for assistance.
Those most at risk for heat-related illnesses are young children, the elderly, and people with health problems such as asthma, who are susceptible to heat-related illnesses, which include heat stroke and exhaustion.
By taking the following precautions, residents can remain safe and more comfortable during the hot days of summer:
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• Stay indoors, whenever possible. Be careful to avoid strenuous activities that can result in overexposure to the sun, such as sports and gardening. If you must do a strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning before 9 a.m. Visit nearby air-conditioned buildings in your community if your home is not air-conditioned. These may include senior centers, movies theaters, libraries and shopping malls.
• When outdoors, wear proper protection from the sun. Light-colored clothing, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen protection are recommended.
• Drink plenty of water. Dehydration, cramps, exhaustion or heat stroke can result from not drinking enough fluids. Water is the safest liquid to drink. Avoid drinks containing alcohol or caffeine.
• Never leave pets, elderly seniors or young children in a car, even with the windows cracked. During times of high temperatures, call 9-1-1 if you see a person or animal unattended in a locked vehicle. Check frequently on elderly relatives or neighbors and other at-risk individuals. Watch for signs of heat-related illness such as hot, dry skin; confusion; hallucinations; and aggression.
It is important to keep outdoor pets in the shade and give them plenty of water. Executive Regulation 10-10AM, Anti-Cruelty Conditions for Dogs, Section 2-D, states, “A person must not tether a dog under circumstances that endanger its health, safety, or well-being, including: unattended tethering of a dog during a weather emergency.” The penalty for this violation is a fine of $500. The regulation is enforced as long as and/or whenever the Weather Service issues an Excessive Heat Warning.
Knowing the symptoms of heat exposure can prevent serious heat illness from becoming life threatening. Should any of the following occur, get out of the heat, loosen any tight or heavy clothing, and drink plenty of water. Dehydration, cramps, exhaustion or heat stroke can result from not drinking enough fluids. Avoid drinks containing alcohol or caffeine.
• Heat cramps: symptoms include painful muscle spasms, usually involving the abdominal muscles or legs;
• Heat exhaustion: first signs are cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, dizziness, nausea, headache and weakness; and
• Heat stroke: the most serious sign of overexposure. Symptoms include red, hot, dry skin, weak pulse, rapid breathing, and changes in consciousness. Seek emergency medical attention by calling 9-1-1.