PORTLAND, Ore. - Triple-digit temperatures are expected across the region this week, and in order to stay safe, the American Red Cross urges residents to be aware of the steps they should take to avoid heat-related illness.
Follow these simple steps to keep yourself and others safe before and during a heat wave.
- 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.
- Check the contents of your disaster preparedness kit to ensure it has enough water and non-perishable food items, just in case. For a full kit list, visit redcross.org/PrepareGuide.
- Look out for your neighbors -- people who are elderly, young or sick are more susceptible to heat-related illness and may need your help.
- If you do not have air conditioning, locate places you could go to find relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day (schools, libraries, theaters, malls). Many government websites provide a list of available cooling centers.
- Ensure that your animals' needs for water and shade are met.
- Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio for critical updates from the National Weather Service (NWS).
- Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles, not even for a few minutes. According to the National Weather Service, a car left in 80 degree weather yielded an inside temperature of 95 degrees and rising in just two minutes.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
- Eat small meals and eat more often.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun's rays.
- Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day (late afternoon/evening).
- Postpone outdoor games and activities (participants and spectators).
- Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.
- Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors.
- Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
- Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat.
How to Treat Heat-Related Illnesses
During heat waves people are susceptible to several heat-related conditions. Here's how to recognize and respond to them.
Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.
- Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle.
- Give an electrolyte-containing fluid, such as a sports drink. Water may also be given.
Heat exhaustion is a more severe condition than heat cramps. Heat exhaustion often affects athletes, firefighters and construction workers. It also affects those wearing heavy clothing in a hot, humid environment.
- Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion.
- Move the person to a cooler environment with circulating air. Remove or loosen as much clothing as possible and apply cool, wet towels to the skin. Fanning or spraying the person with water also can help. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of a cool fluid such as a sports drink or fruit juice to restore fluids and electrolytes. Give about 4 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes.
- If the person's condition does not improve or if he or she refuses water, has a change in consciousness or vomits, call 9-1-1.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that usually occurs by ignoring the signals of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke develops when the body's systems are overwhelmed by heat and begin to stop functioning.
- Signs of heat stroke include extremely high body temperature; red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures.
- Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you believe someone is suffering from this condition.
- Rapidly cool the body by immersing the person up to the neck in cold water, if possible OR douse or spray the person with cold water.
- Cover the person with bags of ice or cold, wet towels.
- If you are not able to measure and monitor the person's temperature, apply rapid cooling methods for 20 minutes or until the person's condition improves.
Download the Red Cross Emergency App
- Find the FREE Red Cross Emergency App in the Apple Store or Google Play
- It offers a Heat Wave Safety Checklist, among many other resources
- It provides expert medical advice right at your fingertips
- It's available in multiple languages
About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org/Cascades or find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/RedCrossCascades, Twitter at @RedCrossCasc and find us on Instagram at @RedCrossCascades.
Meanwhile, with the temperatures in Oregon expected to reach triple digits this week, Oregon OSHA reminds employers and workers in construction, agriculture, and other labor-intensive activities to learn the signs of heat illness and focus on prevention.
"Employers and workers in Oregon need to be especially aware of the dangers of working in high heat," said Penny Wolf-McCormick, health enforcement manager for Oregon OSHA. "That's because workers here tend to be used to working in mild weather and are frequently not acclimated to this type of heat."
"The focus should be on prevention," added Wolf-McCormick. "Employers need to provide drinking water, offer shaded places for workers to take breaks, and to watch for signs of trouble."
Those signs of trouble include headaches, cramps, dizziness, fatigue, or nausea.
Here are some tips for preventing a heat-related illness:
Perform the heaviest, most labor-intensive work during the coolest part of the day.
Use the buddy system (work in pairs) to monitor the heat.
Drink plenty of cool water (one small cup every 15 to 20 minutes).
Wear light, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing (such as cotton).
Take frequent short breaks in cool, shaded areas -- allow your body to cool down.
Avoid eating large meals before working in hot environments.
Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages (these make the body lose water and increase the risk of heat illnesses).
To help those suffering from heat exhaustion:
Move them to a cool, shaded area. Do not leave them alone.
Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
Provide cool water to drink (a small cup every 15 minutes) if they are not feeling sick to their stomach.
Try to cool them by fanning them. Cool the skin with a spray mist of cold water or a wet cloth.
If they do not feel better in a few minutes, call 911 for emergency help.
Certain medications, wearing personal protective equipment while on the job, and a past case of heat stress create a higher risk for heat illness. Heat stroke is a more severe condition than heat exhaustion and can result in death. Immediately call for emergency help if you think the person is suffering from heat stroke.
Employers can calculate the heat index for their worksite with the federal OSHA heat stress app for mobile phones. The tool is available at
https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html. A number of other tools are available at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html.
Oregon OSHA has a booklet available in both English and Spanish with tips for working in the heat: http://osha.oregon.gov/OSHAPubs/4926.pdf (English version), http://osha.oregon.gov/OSHAPubs/4926s.pdf (Spanish version).
Oregon OSHA also offers a pocket-sized heat stress card -- available in both English and Spanish -- that includes information about the risks of exposure to high temperature and high humidity: http://osha.oregon.gov/OSHAPubs/3333.pdf (English version), http://osha.oregon.gov/OSHAPubs/3333s.pdf (Spanish version).
For more information about heat stress and prevention of heat-related illness, go to http://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/topics/heat-stress.aspx