NEWBERRY — Water. Rest. Shade.Work can’t get done without them.
Those words were a part of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s 2013 campaign to prevent heat illness in workers.
With the heat of summer in full swing and temperatures in the mid 80s and 90s, this time of year is especially important to protect children, the elderly and others from the dangers of heat exhaustion.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year.
For example, their website states that in the heat wave of 1980, more than 1,250 people died. In the heat wave of 1995 more than 700 deaths in the Chicago area were attributed to heat, making it the deadliest weather event in Chicago history.
Last July, a good portion of the country experienced a heat wave. Over 106 million people were under a heat advisory and over 34 million were under an excessive heat warning in the United States.
Adult Nurse Practitioner Jessica Cannon has seen cases of heat exhaustion within her three years in the Newberry Hospital’s Emergency Department.
On extremely hot days, Cannon said Newberry Hospital can treat three to four cases of heat related illnesses.
“The hospital usually sees more heat related issues in the early summer as people may not be acclimated or aware of the summer heat yet,” Cannon said.
Whether it involves children wanting to play outdoors or an adult that works outside as a hobby or for a living, her advice is to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water or even some juices.
“Sodas may taste good, but they are not hydrating,” Cannon said. “Sports drinks can be a good replacement, but water is still the best. Sports drinks may contain a lot of sodium.”
The young and elderly are particularly vulnerable in the heat Cannon said typically because young children do not drink enough to stay hydrated, however their bodies to not acclimate to the heat as well, making them more susceptible.
Michael Bernardo, owner of Bernardo Geriatrics in Newberry believes his advice for the elderly is the same as what he would advise young children — the key is hydration.
Bernardo said interestingly enough, the importance of hydration has not always been well known. For example, Bernardo said when he played football in high school, “water breaks” were used as rewards for a good practice, which now a days would be considered “abuse,” he said.
Not only are children and the elderly at risk for heat exhaustion, but also those with chronic medical conditions. For those with conditions including asthma or diabetes, Cannon said they may be more quickly affected by heat. This is because they may dehydrate quicker.
“The humidity affects asthmatics more so than others,” Cannon said.
A common misconception that people have is that those with darker complexions/tans are not at risk of being exposed to the sun, but rather only those with fair skin. Cannon said this is not a fact.
Those with darker complexions are still at risk for long-term effects including wrinkles and skin cancer, she said.
Tips to Stay Cool
According to Cannon, warning signs of a heat related incident taking place can include symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and muscle cramping. Later signs may include vomiting, passing out, and ceasing to perspire.
If someone encounters a person who they think may be encountering a heat stroke or other signs of a heat related illness, Cannon suggests they immediately remove the person from the heat.
A cooling method such as a fan or a cool rag with ice at the back of the head should then be used. “If the person continues to show symptoms, take them to the hospital or activate EMS,” she said.
Bernardo reminds both children and adults that they should not be sitting in a car without air conditioning for any length of time, especially when in direct sunlight.
Whether outdoors for work or play, Cannon recommends taking a 15 minute break every hour to avoid getting too hot. Avoid the hottest part of the day by getting out early in the morning or in the late afternoon around dusk.
The hottest parts of the day are between 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., but if it’s necessary to be out during those hours wearing light colored clothing to reflect the sun and wearing moisture wicking, breathable materials can held take the strain off of the body.
A sunblock of 30-45 SPF Cannon said is good for most people and should be reapplied every one and a half to two hours according to how much a person perspires.
“Water resistant is not waterproof,” Cannon reminds.
How Newberry County stays cool
Newberry county families shared what they do to keep cool during the summer heat.
Donna Shealy Turner-Jacobs from Prosperity takes breaks more than the recommended average stopping every 10 minutes to cool off from the outdoors.
From Whitmire, Maria Mcmurtury said she sticks to a routine of drinking lots of Gatorade and cold ice water to stay cool.
In Newberry, Cindy Simmons O’Dell believes tips are not just for humans, but for pets as well. If you have outdoor pets, O’Dell suggests putting a kiddie wading pool with water out so they can cool off.
“Our dog loves his pool and will get in it throughout the day,” O’Dell said.