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Monday, July 15, 2013

Prevent Heat-Related Illness

In preparation for this week's forecast of excessive heat and humidity, Atlantic County officials remind residents to take the necessary precautions and be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illness. Prolonged exposure to excessive heat can cause heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Symptoms of heat-related illness include:

Heat Exhaustion: Heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale, clammy skin; thready pulse; fainting and vomiting but may have normal temperature. First Aid: Get victim out of sun. Once inside, the person should lay down and loosen his or her clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Fan or move victim to air conditioned room. Offer sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

Heat Stroke (or sunstroke): High body temperature (106° F or higher), hot dry skin, rapid and strong pulse, possible unconsciousness. First Aid: HEAT STROKE IS A SEVERE MEDICAL EMERGENCY. SUMMON EMERGENCY MEDICAL ASSISTANCE OR GET THE VICTIM TO A HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY. DELAY CAN BE FATAL. While waiting for emergency assistance, move the victim to a cooler environment and reduce body temperature with cold bath or sponging. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing, use fans and air conditioners. If temperature rises again, repeat process. Do NOT give fluids. Persons on salt restrictive diets should consult a physician before increasing their salt intake.

There are a number of steps people can take to guard against heat-related illness. One of the most important is to drink plenty of fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty. But caffeinated beverages and alcohol should be avoided as they can contribute to dehydration.

Spending a few hours a day in an air-conditioned place such as a shopping mall or library can help residents, and particularly those most vulnerable, to cope with hot, humid weather. The Atlantic County Library System includes 10 branches open Monday through Saturday. Visit www.atlanticlibrary.org for locations and hours.

If possible, reduce physical activity or schedule it for the cooler parts of the day.

Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes. Be aware of both the temperature and the heat index. The heat index is the temperature the body feels when the effects of heat and humidity are combined. Exposure to direct sunlight can increase the heat index by as much as 15° F.

Wear loose and light-colored clothing. Take care not to overdress children and to give them plenty of liquids to drink. Children under age five and especially those under age one are especially sensitive to the effects of the heat.

Don't get too much sun. Sunburn reduces your body's ability to dissipate heat.

Check on elderly relatives and neighbors to see if they need help taking proper heat precautions, or if they need medical attention as a result of the heat.

If you are elderly or otherwise at risk, take advantage of any air-conditioned shelters that are set up during heat waves. Residents sixty years of age or older may find comfort from the heat at any of the county's nine air conditioned senior centers. For the location nearest you or assistance for an elderly individual, call the Atlantic County Division of Intergenerational Services at 1-888- 426-9243.

Check with your health provider before taking salt tablets. Salt supplements are not necessary for the general public, although those who regularly work under very hot conditions may need them.

Talk to your health provider about any medicine or drugs you are taking. Certain medications, such as tranquilizers and drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease, can increase the risk of heat-related illness.

Don't leave children or pets in enclosed cars, as temperatures can quickly climb to dangerous levels. Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.

Make sure pets have plenty of water and if left outside, plenty of shade. Please keep in mind a tree providing shade for your pet in the morning may not offer the same shade coverage in the afternoon.

Discuss heat safety precautions with members of your household. Have a plan for wherever you spend time— home, work and school—and prepare for the possibility of power outages.

For further information on heat-related illness, visit the Atlantic County Web site at www.aclink.org or call the Division of Public Health at (609) 645-5935.

Click here for more information about heat-related illness.

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