Beating the Heat

Summer is here!

It is a typical summer in the Washington-D.C area with hot weather and high humidity, so be sure to listen to your local weather and news channels, use common sense and take a minute to review the following tips.  

Pre-hydrate, Hydrate and Re-hydrate

During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of activity level.  Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after activities and don't wait until you're thirsty to hydrate. Thirst is one of sign of dehydration, while other signs include restlessness and dry mouth. Learn more about the causes and signs of dehydration. Warning:  Some prescription and over-the-counter medications can affect how you respond to heat.  Check with your healthcare practitioner and read the labels on all medications.

Dress for the Heat

  • Wear light-weight, light-colored clothing
  • Limit direct exposure to the sun; wear a hat for extra protection
  • Be especially vigilant if you have fair hair/skin
  • Monitor those at high risk:
    • Children
    • Older adults
    • People that work or exercise outside
    • Those with pre-existing medical conditions

Be a good neighbor

Isolated, elderly adults are at a much higher risk of health-related issues. Elderly, low income or individuals with disabilities in Montgomery County should call 240-777-3000 for information on free fans.  

Children and Cars – Use Common Sense

Never leave infants, children, pets or the elderly in a parked car. Temperatures can become life-threatening in minutes, even with the windows rolled down. Additionally, hot surfaces of a car can burn a child's skin.  Before you put your child in a car that has been parked in a warm/sunny spot, check the temperature of the car seat or upholstery first.  

Remember Your Pets

Hot weather can affect the well-being of pets making them susceptible to overheating which can lead to dangerous heat stroke.   Always provide a source of water and a cool, ventilated place for your pet.  Leaving your pet inside a parked car, even for a few minutes, can be fatal. The inside of a car can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes.  

Stay Indoors in an air-conditioned place

If your home does not have air conditioning, consider going to the shopping mall, community center or public library.  Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you return to the heat.

Avoid/Reduce Strenuous Activity

When possible, strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated or rescheduled to the coolest part of the day.  Take regular breaks when exercising or engaging in physical activity on warm days.  If you recognize that you, or someone else, is showing signs of a heat-related illness, stop the activity immediately, find a cool place to rest, hydrate and seek medical attention if necessary.  

Working in the Heat

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) adds to your heat stress burden.  This makes it even more important for you to focus on hydration and to recognize symptoms of heat stress before it becomes a potentially life-threatening medical emergency.  Supervisors – make sure that employees working outdoors or in hot indoor environments have adequate means to hydrate themselves.  Rotation into and out of climate-controlled areas may need to be on a more frequent basis if heat conditions indicate.

Heat Stress

If you plan on being out and about in summer, or even in some indoor locations, chances are you'll be exposed to a lot of sun and higher temperatures. Heat is the #1 weather-related killer — more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, lightning, or any other weather event combined.   Last year, extreme heat killed 108 people in the U.S., and many times more than that worldwide.

Heat Stress – Contributing Factors

  • Personal:
    • Age, weight, and personal fitness
    • Dehydration and loss of electrolytes
    • Illness / fever
    • Medical conditions
    • Certain medicines
    • Diet / alcohol
    • Inadequate tolerance or adaptation to heat
  • Environmental:
    • High temps
    • Humidity
    • Direct sun or heat
    • Limited air movement
    • Hot equipment
    • Heat reflected from ground or objects
    • Physical exertion
    • Clothing and PPE

Common signs of Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke

  • Heat Exhaustion:
    • Heavy sweating 
    • Muscle cramps
    • Pulse rate: fast and weak  
    • Breathing: fast and shallow 
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Fatigue
    • Weakness 
    • Headache and/or dizziness  
  • Heat Stroke:
    • An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees)
    • The absence of sweating  
    • Rapid pulse 
    • Difficulty breathing  
    • Throbbing headache
    • Strange behavior and/or hallucinations 
    • Confusion, agitation and disorientation
    • Unconsciousness

For more information about beating the heat, visit Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/; identify and contact your assigned Safety and Health Specialist or call the Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS), Technical Assistance Branch at 301-496-3353.

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