With temperatures already soaring into the 90s – much earlier than normal – the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) is urging Georgians to exercise caution. Every year, thousands of Americans are hospitalized from heat-related illnesses. The elderly and those working in excessive heat are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat exhaustion and heat illness.
“We’re sounding the alarm early,” said Division of Public Health (DPH) Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., noting that temperatures are generally 10 degrees higher than normal for this first week of June. “I’m asking everyone to ensure their own safety and also the safety of their neighbors and loved ones.”
It’s important to take the proper steps to avoid common summer-related injuries and illnesses.
- Do not leave children in hot cars. Even with outside temperatures in the low to mid-70s, a car’s inside temperature can jump as much as 19 degrees in just 10 minutes. Last year, a record 49 children nationwide died from heatstroke after being left in cars, including three children in Georgia.
- Avoid sun exposure. Melanoma is the third most common skin cancer. Every year, an estimated 1,709 new melanoma cases are diagnosed in Georgia. Wear light, loose fitting clothing and use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15. Avoid the outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest. Infants and children are especially susceptible to sunburn.
- Stay hydrated. Drink more fluids than unusual if you’re outside in hot weather for prolonged periods of time or doing vigorous physical activity. Avoid alcoholic beverages or those containing caffeine as they cause dehydration.
- Check on the elderly. Check on elderly neighbors and relatives often to watch for signs of heat-related stress. The elderly population and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to suffer from extreme and prolonged exposure to heat.
- Locate the coolest room in your home. Finding a place to cool down, at least temporarily, can provide some relief and allow a person’s body to recover from higher temperatures.
- Bathe to cool down. Taking a cold shower or bath can reduce body temperature.
Learn to recognize the symptoms of Heatstroke:
• An extremely high body temperature
• Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
• Rapid, strong pulse
Learn to recognize the symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:
• Heavy sweating
• Muscle cramps
• Nausea or vomiting
What to do if you or someone near you exhibits these symptoms:
- Help victim cool off and seek medical attention if condition worsens or lasts for more than 1 hour.
- Get out of the sun.
- Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath.
- Drink cool, non-alcoholic or non-caffeinated beverages.
About the Georgia Department of Community Health
DCH was created in 1999 to serve as the lead agency for health care planning and purchasing issues in Georgia. DCH is designated as the single state agency for Medicaid and the State Health Benefit Plan, the health insurance program for Georgia’s teachers, state employees, retirees and their dependents. In 2009, Healthcare Facility Regulation was created at DCH from sections transferred from the former Department of Human Resources, Office of Regulatory Services. At that same time, the Division of Public Health and the Section of Emergency Preparedness and Response transitioned to the Department. To learn more about DCH, visit www.dch.georgia.gov