Calendars mean little in terms of California heat. Intensely hot temperatures are just as likely in spring and fall as they are in summer. But whatever the time of year, extreme heat can create serious health problems, according to the California Department of Health Services. The elderly, the very young, people with chronic diseases and those without access to air conditioning are those most likely to suffer in extremely hot weather. Preliminary figures published in 2008 show an increase in heatrelated deaths marked in 2006 and in 2007. Typically, the most deaths are recorded in July, followed by August, then June.
Staying in an air-conditioned area, either at home or in a public place such as a mall, library or recreation center, is the most effective way to combat heat. If air conditioning is not available, open the windows, pull the shades down to keep out the sun and use cross-ventilation and fans to cool rooms.
Symptoms of heat illness include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, nausea, weak but rapid pulse and headaches. People with these symptoms should find shade, drink water slowly and make sure there is good ventilation.
If fluids are not replaced soon enough, heat stroke can follow causing extremely high body temperature, red and dry skin, rapid pulse, confusion, brain damage, loss of consciousness and death.
Drink plenty of fluids, avoid strenuous outdoor activity and never leave anyone in a closed parked vehicle in hot weather, even for a short time. To help a person showing severe symptoms, get the victim into shade, call for emergency medical services and start cooling the person immediately with cool water or by fanning.
Children especially can quickly become dehydrated. They need to drink fluids frequently, especially water, and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes. Avoid drinks that are heavily sweetened or contain caffeine. Check on children often, especially if they are playing outside in high temperatures.
Most localities have seasonal cooling centers equipped with water, first aid stations and in some cases snacks. If you can’t get to a cooling center a mall or public building will do. Knowing how to respond in a heat related emergency could save a life.
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