Hot weather is coming, know when you need help

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The cynics say, "It's supposed to get hot in summer. What's the big deal."

But medical experts are realizing that heat causes more health problems than previously thought.

With temperatures near 90, and high humidity, they urge everyone to know the signs of heat-related illness, and to take steps to ward it off.

Senior citizens, young children, and people with chronic health conditions are the most at-risk for heat stress and heat exhaustion, the first and second stages of heat illness.

Sharon Congleton, the health promotion nurse supervisor for the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, offers these tips.

Know When to Ask for Help: Symptoms of heat stress can include:
--loss of energy
--loss of appetite
--upset stomach
--lightheadedness
--prickly heat
--heat cramps

--heavy sweating
--thirst
--feeling faint
--giddiness
--confusion and/or nausea

If you or someone you know experiences one or more of these symptoms, move to a cool location and rest.

Drink more fluids and remove any excess clothing.

Call 911, if symptoms include any of the following:
--lack of sweat
--combative behavior
--hot, dry, flushed skin
--body temperature of 105 degrees or above
--throbbing headache
--rapid heartbeat or breathing
--convulsions
--staggering
--loss of consciousness and/or confusion.

Check on elderly and homebound neighbors.

Make sure they have enough to drink and check the conditions inside the home.

Fans should not be used inside a home with windows closed; this circulates hot air and creates a convection oven effect.

To avoid heat stress and dehydration:

Drink lots of water. Even if you're not thirsty, drink a glass of cold water every 15 to 20 minutes.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol which can cause your body to lose water; in hot weather, it is easy to become dehydrated, which is very dangerous to your health.

Stay cool. Turn on the air conditioning - don't try to save on energy bills during a heat wave.

If you don't have air conditioning, go somewhere that is air-conditioned, like a neighbor's house, senior center, public library or shopping mall.

If you can't get out of the house, stay on a lower floor, where it's cooler and open the windows.

Use a fan only if the outside air is cooler than the inside air, and do not use a fan with the windows closed.

Also, keep curtains or blinds closed during daylight hours to block out the sun.
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