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Monday, July 28, 2014

Staying safe in summer heat

Only partway through what has been a sticky and steamy summer, the Concord Red Cross released advice on staying safe in hot weather.

There have been no fatalities directly related to hot weather in New Hampshire this year, but there have been heat-related illnesses and issues, said Chris Stawasz, operations manager of AMR, the 911 ambulance service provider in Nashua. ...

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Only partway through what has been a sticky and steamy summer, the Concord Red Cross released advice on staying safe in hot weather.

There have been no fatalities directly related to hot weather in New Hampshire this year, but there have been heat-related illnesses and issues, said Chris Stawasz, operations manager of AMR, the 911 ambulance service provider in Nashua.

“Elderly folks are most at risk ... they are the most easily impacted by the heat,” he said.

The second most vulnerable demographic is children, Stawasz said. Across the nation, 15 children younger than 15 have died in a hot vehicle so far in 2014, according to a USA Today report. Out of the 15 deaths, 12 have been confirmed as caused by heatstroke, and three are pending medical examiner results.

Stawasz said public awareness of safety in hot weather is better than it’s been in the past, but there is still room for improvement.

“The No. 1 thing is to stay hydrated with non-alcoholic beverages. Water is really the best. Particularly for the elderly and the young, stay inside during peak sun hours,” he said.

Libraries, malls, or senior centers are good options for staying cool while being entertained, he said.

According to the Red Cross, hot weather can cause sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. One key is staying hydrated while limiting drinks containing caffeine or alcohol since both are considered diuretics and do not effectively hydrate.

If person affected by the heat refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, the Red Cross recommends calling 911.

Heatstroke can be deadly, its signs include hot, red skin that can be dry or moist, loss of consciousness, vomiting and high body temperature. While waiting for emergency services, move the person out of the heat and douse with cold water, cover with wet towels or bags of ice.

Heat exhaustion symptoms include cool/moist/pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness and weakness. The individual should be moved to a cooler spot and given small amounts of water. It also helps to remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cold, wet towels to their skin.

To alleviate heat cramps, the best move is for the person to get out of the heat, rest, lightly stretch affected muscles and drink fluids; about 4 ounces of water every 15 minutes.

The Red Cross had tips for keeping pets safe in summer heat as well. Common causes of heat stroke in dogs include thick coats, being left in a hot car, exercise in high heat, a lack of shelter outdoors or an underlying disease affecting lungs, heart or airways. Some breeds are predisposed to overheat such as bulldogs and pugs.

Signs of heatstroke in dogs include collapse, body temperature at or above 104 degrees, bloody diarrhea or vomit, depressive stupor, seizures, coma, excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate and salivation.

To alleviate the affects, get the dog out of direct heat and their temperature. Spray with cool water and retake the temperature to check for signs of recovery. Put water-soaked towels on the dog’s head, neck, paws, chest and abdomen and turn a fan on them.

Lastly, take the dog to the veterinarian, even if their temperature come down below 104 degrees as consequences from heatstroke may not show for hours or days.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402 or tforbes@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Forbes on Twitter (@Telegraph_TinaF).