Monday, June 25, 2018
As South Jersey prepares for its first potential heat wave of the summer later this week, Atlantic County health officials remind residents to take precautions to avoid heat-related illness.
Heat waves lead to more deaths each year in the U.S. than tornadoes, earthquakes, floods and hurricanes combined. An average of 618 annual deaths result from heat-related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those most at risk for heat-related illness include sensitive populations such as the elderly, infants and young children; outdoor laborers; people who are overweight; people with mental illness; people suffering from asthma, heart disease or other lung diseases. Pets are also susceptible to the effects of heat.
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. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol 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 has 9 branches located throughout Atlantic County. To find a location near you and hours of operation, visit www.AtlanticLibrary.org.
Atlantic County’s senior nutrition centers are also air-conditioned and are available to residents age 60 years and older, Monday through Friday, 9 AM - 2 PM. Visit www.aclink.org/intergenerational or call 1-888-426-9243 for locations and information.
Other advice for avoiding heat-related illness:
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.
Take care not to overdress children and to give them plenty of liquids to drink. Children under age five are especially sensitive to the effects of the heat.
Don't leave children or pets in enclosed cars, as temperatures can quickly climb to dangerous levels.
If possible, reduce physical activity or schedule it for the cooler parts of the day.
Wear loose and light-colored clothing.
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.
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.
For further information on heat-related illness, visit the Atlantic County Web site at www.aclink.org/publichealth or call the Division of Public Health at (609) 645-5935.