SEATTLE - With temperatures expected to rise this week, the American Red Cross is encouraging people to take precautions. The very young and the elderly are especially vulnerable to the heat, so it's important that families and friends check on them regularly.
The state Department of Health says children can die if they're left in a hot car for only a few minutes. Even a 70-degree day can make the inside of a car dangerous in minutes.
"People see cars with their windows cracked open and think that's enough," said Mary Borges, director of Safe Kids Washington. "It really doesn't help much at all. In 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car can increase by 19 degrees and it continues to rise as time goes on."
Deaths occur even when it may not seem that hot outside. The first death in 2010 occurred in early March in Florida on a day that reached only 73 degrees. Another seven of this year's 20 deaths in the United States through June 27 occurred on days in the low to mid-80s.
More than 50 percent of the children who have died from heatstroke were forgotten by an adult who left the vehicle, according to San Francisco State University's Department of Geosciences.
Prevent Heat-Related Illness
- Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing (light colors reflect away some of the sun's energy) and plenty of sunscreen. Wear a hat or use an umbrella to help shield you from the sun.
- Carry water or juice and drink frequently, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body. Make sure to check on youth and elderly to make sure they have enough fluids.
- Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increases metabolic heat.
- Avoid using salt tablets unless directed by a physician.
- Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do something physically demanding, try to do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually between 4:00 and 7:00 a.m. Take regular breaks to cool off.
- Stay indoors as much as possible.
- Be vigilant about water safety if headed to a pool or beach. Never leave a child unattended near water and keep lifesaving gear handy.
- Watch for signs of life-threatening heat stroke. The person's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly.
- Signals of heat stroke include hot, red, and usually dry skin, changes in consciousness, rapid, weak pulse and rapid, shallow breathing.
- If you or someone you know experience symptoms, call 911 or your local EMS number. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body by wrapping wet sheets around the body and fan it. If you have ice packs or cold packs, place them on each of the victim's wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels. Watch for signals of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down.
Remember your pets
- Limit exercise to the coolest part of the day, typically early in the morning. Even in the coolest part of the day, watch for signs of trouble. Glassy eyes and frantic panting indicate a dog needs help.
- Make sure your pet has constant access to shade and an endless supply of cool, clean water.
- Never leave a pet in a car - even for a few minutes.
- Be vigilant for signs of heat stroke, which is deadly for pets. Symptoms include sluggish and non-responsive demeanor, bright red and/or dry tongue and gums, vomiting or diarrhea and/or unusual breathing patter, heavy panting, or high heart rate. If your pet displays these symptoms, get emergency medical attention.