With temperatures forecast for the mid-90s to 100° this week, and a heat index of over 100° F, Montgomery County health officials are encouraging residents to find places where they can stay cool and to take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses.
Most at risk are young children, the elderly, and people with health problems such as asthma, who are susceptible to heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and exhaustion.
Libraries, recreation centers and pools are good places to cool off, along with shopping malls and movie theaters. To quickly find the location of public facilities, go to the My Montgomery website at http://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/mymontgomery and type in your location. The website includes locations of pools, parks, libraries, regional services centers, recreation centers, Metro stations, hospitals and golf courses. Residents with questions about specific locations and hours of operation should call 311.
By taking the following precautions, residents can remain safe and comfortable during the current heat wave.
• 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, usually before 9 a.m. Residents whose homes are not air-conditioned should visit nearby air-conditioned buildings, including 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. Avoid drinks containing alcohol or caffeine.
• 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.
• Never leave pets or young children in a car, even with the windows cracked.
Knowing the symptoms of heat exposure can prevent a 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:
• 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 911.
For more information on ways to beat the heat, go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/.
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