Summer heat can kill; protect your family, pets and yourself

Stock image | St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Thursday marked the first day of summer and temperatures are rising. Across southwest Utah, a red flag fire weather warning has been issued, while the Arizona Strip and southeast Nevada have an excessive heat warning in effect through Saturday evening with temperatures expected to reach 115 degrees in some places.

As the heat rises, various heat-related health issues also become a concern. These can include dehydration, hyperthermia and heat cramps, as well as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“Prolonged exposure to heat can result in heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke,” according to the National Weather Service. “Avoid strenuous outdoor activities during the heat of the day.”

Those considered particularly at risk for heat-related issues are infants, children, the elderly and pets.

Approximately 400 people die each year in the U.S. due to heat-related problems, Dave Heaton, of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, previously told St. George News

What follows are tips for how you, your family, your friends and your pets can avoid becoming casualties of the summer heat.

Bring on the water – stay hydrated

Dehydration, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is a state when your body loses more fluid than it takes in. Dehydration can affect anyone of any age.

Child drinks bottled water with soluble electrolytes for rehydration. | Photo by zlikovec /iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Symptoms can include generalized weakness, lightheadedness, confusion, cyclic nausea and vomiting, thirst (but not always) and apple juice-colored urine.

Prolonged dehydration can result in falling, kidney failure and death.

Hydrating with water is considered the best way to combat dehydration unless there is strenuous exertion or other unusual circumstances.

Thirst isn’t always the best way to tell if you need fluids. By the time your body is telling you that you need a drink, you’re already low on fluids.

Also hydrate and rehydrate before, during and after activity. Fluid losses increase as the body sweats. Consume water or other fluids with each meal, and take water with you wherever you go, particularly during hot weather.

Foods with high-water content such as fruits and vegetables are also recommended.

It should be noted that seniors, little children and infants are at higher risk for dehydration than others.

Stay hydrated in the outdoors

Southwest Utah is an outdoor mecca for locals and visitors alike and sometimes they get lost or otherwise stuck somewhere due to some unforeseen mishap or wrong turn.

A firefighter hydrates while fighting the Brian Head Fire, Utah, July 5, 2017 | Photo courtesy InciWeb, Cedar City News / St. George News

That’s when Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue gets called in to help find those who are have been reported missing or have called for help.

Read more: 8 rescues in 1 week prompt search and rescue officials to issue warning about dehydration

During the summer months, search and rescue teams tend to respond to people how become dehydrated after getting lost or wondering off, said Sgt. Darrell Cashin, liaison for Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Division.

“How many times do people have to realize that it’s summer. It’s hot.”

Attention to seniors

Dehydration can pose a greater risk to seniors. Seniors may be less aware of thirst, less mobile, on diuretics or medications that amplify the effects of dehydration. Compromised kidney function and certain medications may cause water loss. Inability to provide self-care may also be a factor in seniors at risk for dehydration.

“Unless there is a medical reason to restrict fluids, be pretty liberal with water,” Dr. Steve Van Norman, of Dixie Regional Medical Center, previously told St. George News. “There is no medical basis for the ‘8 glasses of water per day’ slogan, but certainly drinking several glasses per day is a good idea. Seniors should need to empty the bladder about every 2-3 hours during the day.”

Attention to kids

Christie Benton, a dietitian with Intermountain Healthcare, recommended the following ideas to ensure kids are hydrating:

  • Schedule water or beverage breaks, especially if kids are playing.
  • Serve a beverage with meals and snacks.
  • Get them their own “cool” water bottle and keep it filled.
  • Offer beverages other than water on occasion, to add calories and variety, especially for active kids.

Attention to infants

Marty Nygaard, pediatric medical director at Dixie Regional, recommends that babies be kept out of the heat if possible.

Benton said that five to six wet diapers a day is usually a good indication of proper hydration.

Small amounts of clear liquids should be given frequently if a baby is feverish or vomiting. If fluids can’t be retained, then it’s time to visit the emergency room.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Heat exhaustion can accompany dehydration, according to WebMD. Water depletion is one of two types of heat exhaustion that can occur and includes symptoms of excessive thirst, weakness, headache and loss of consciousness. Salt depletion, the other type of heat exhaustion, is marked by signs of nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps and dizziness.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Confusion.
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle or abdominal cramps.
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Pale skin.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Rapid heartbeat.

Heat exhaustion can be treated by getting the affected individual into an air-conditioned room or shaded area if getting indoors isn’t an option. They also need to drink lots of fluids – caffeine and alcohol are not encouraged – and it is suggested that restrictive clothing be removed.

Getting the person into a cool shower, bath or sponge bath is also advised.

If efforts to provide relief fail within 15 minutes, seek emergency medical aid as heat stroke can occur if the heat exhaustion remains untreated.

“Heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “This most serious form of heat injury, heatstroke can occur if your body temperature rises to 104 F (40 C) or higher.”

Emergency treatment is required when dealing with heat stroke. Without it, a person can quickly sustain damage to the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage gets worse the longer the condition goes without treatment. This can result in death.

The symptoms of heat stroke include the following:

  • Elevated temperature of 104 degrees or higher — this is the primary symptom of heat stroke.
  • Altered mental state and erratic behavior — confusion, slurring words, agitation, delirium, seizures and even coma can result.
  • Unusual sweating patterns — the skin of a person suffering from heat stroke brought on by exposure to high temperatures will often feel dry to the touch; whereas the skin of a person suffering from heat stroke brought on by overexertion will likely feel moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Flushed skin.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Accelerated heart rate.
  • Headache.

A person with heat stroke needs medical help immediately. Call 911 or call local emergency services.

Immediately take action: Remove the person from the heat and/or sun and get them indoors or into the shade. Remove all excessive clothing. Get the person cool by any means necessary — get them into a tub of cool water or into a cool shower. Spray them with cool water, give them a cool sponge bath or place ice packs on their head, armpits or groin areas.

Infants left in cars

It’s hard to imagine that any parent would forget their child in the car, especially on a hot summer day, but it happens, and has sadly resulted in tragedy as the rising temperature within the car overtakes the child.

Stock image | St. George News

Read more: Baby dies after being left inside vehicle in high temperatures

So far this year, there have been some 18 confirmed cases of child vehicular heatstroke deaths in the U.S., according to KidsAndCars.org, with an average of 37 child deaths each year. In Utah, 12 children died of vehicular heatstroke between 1996 and 2017.

KidsAndCars.org urges parents to implement the “Look Before You Lock” safety checklist that provides simple tips for parents to protect their child:

  • Make sure your child is never left behind in the back seat of a car:
  • Make it a routine to open the back door of your car every time you park to check that no one has been left behind.
  • Put something you need in the back seat to remind you to open the back door every time you park – cell phone, employee badge, handbag, work computer, etc. (The idea is if you leave the vehicle without this item, you would have to go back to get it.)
  • Ask your babysitter or child care provider to call you if your child hasn’t arrived as scheduled.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in baby’s car seat. Place it on the front passenger seat as a reminder when baby is in the back seat.

Make sure children cannot get into a parked car:

  • Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway and even if you do not have children.
  • Keys and remote openers should never be left within reach of children.
  • If a child is missing, immediately check the passenger compartment and trunk of all vehicles in the area.

A recent amendment to Utah’s “Good Samaritan Law” grants civil immunity to individuals who break into a vehicle to rescue a child confined within if they appear to be in distress.

Read more: It’s now legal to break into hot cars to save children

However, the law does not extend to individuals who forcefully enter a vehicle to rescue an animal.

Pets and the heat

As with infants, it’s not a good idea to leave your pets in the car either. Pets left in a car can also succumb to heatstroke as temperatures within a car can reach up to 160 degrees in a short amount of time.

In additional to being left in a car, pets also face other heat-related hazards.

Asphalt

Avoid walking your dog on asphalt or concrete surfaces between 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. | Photo by Leanna Bergeron, St. George News

Asphalt retains heat throughout the night, allowing it to reach extreme temperatures during the day. The rule of thumb is to avoid walking your dog between 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. on any kind of asphalt or concrete, Ivins City animal control officer Aggie Smith previously told St. George News.

“The asphalt here by 2 o’clock, you could fry an egg on it. Dogs can literally burn their pads off.”

In St. George, asphalt temperatures can reach upward of 180 degrees, Smith said.

Other hot surfaces to be aware of are sand, boat docks, anything metal and even leather seats in your car. If a surface is too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet.

Cars and truck beds

Pets should never be left in a car in the summer. It takes 10 minutes for a car interior to heat up to 150 degrees, Smith said, even if it’s only 90 degrees outside.

“There is no reason that any dog this time of the summer should be in your car while you’re in shopping. It doesn’t take long for a dog to die.”

The same goes for truck beds. While some may think that because their animal is in open air it will be able to cool itself down, in reality, most truck beds are made of metal.

“They still can’t cool themselves off,” Smith said, “the back of the truck is metal and it gets really hot.”

Always provide shade for your pet and enough water | Photo by Leanna Bergeron, St. George News

Backyards and water bowls

All-day shade is one of the most important things to make sure your backyard has for your pet.

“For the summer, any animal that is left outside should have adequate cover,” Smith said, “which means some place in the shade that they can get to all day.”

Metal water bowls should be kept in shade as direct sunlight can heat water to extremely high temperatures.

“I don’t know too many people in the summer who want to drink a hot glass of something. Everybody wants something cool, including your dog.”

Smith said a good method of making sure pets have cold water throughout the day is freezing a jug of water and setting it in a water bowl. The slow condensation will keep the water cool.

Additionally, larger buckets of water will stay cooler than smaller bowls of water.

Animal heatstroke

A dog’s only way of cooling itself is to pant. Smaller, short-nosed dog breeds like bulldogs and pugs have an even harder time cooling themselves, Smith said.

If a dog goes into heat stroke, they should be treated the same way as a human – attempt to bring their body temperature down slowly, by offering them little bits of water and placing them in a lukewarm bath.

Tips for beating the heat

The National Weather Service maintains a list of tips on how to stay healthy during excessive heat events

  • Slow down. When temperatures soar, it is time to reduce overall exertion and reserve high-energy activities for the coolest portions of the day. In particular, young children and the elderly should attempt to stay in the coolest possible place, which may not necessarily be indoors.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that is light in color in order to reflect both sunlight and heat.
  • Eat the right foods. Light, easy to digest foods with high water content such as salads, fruits or vegetables are ideal. When packing food, make sure it is stored in a cooler or packed with an ice pack. Hot weather makes foods spoil faster.
  • Drink lots of water. Avoid alcoholic or caffeinated drinks. Drink even when not thirsty. If on a diet that restricts fluid intake or if unable to retain fluids, consult with a physician.
  • Embrace air conditioning. Use air conditioning in the car or at home, or spend time in air-conditioned locations such as libraries or malls.
  • Minimize direct exposure to the sun. The human body cannot dissipate heat as efficiently when exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Use electric fans to reduce room temperature, but do not point fans directly at your body. The air current will lead to dehydration more quickly.
  • Take cool showers or baths.
  • Unless directed by a physician, do not take salt tablets.

St George News reporters Joseph Witham, Mikayla Shoup and Markee Heckenliable contributed to this article.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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