Precautions in heat wave

Wisconsin state emergency management and health officials are asking residents to again take precautions if they have to be outside or in non-air-conditioned homes during this heat wave, and to check on older or isolated neighbors who may need assistance.

This summer, 10 confirmed and probable heat-related fatalities have been reported in Wisconsin, said Wisconsin Department of Health Services officials.

Summer heat waves have been the biggest weather-related killers in Wisconsin. Most at risk are older adults and young children. However, all persons are at risk, especially those with physical or mental health conditions.

Last year, 27 people died in Wisconsin as a result of heat-related issues, officials said.

General heat exhaustion symptoms include fainting, rash, fatigue and nausea. Skin can become clammy and moist or hot and dry. Heat stroke can come on rapidly and may progress to life-threatening illness within minutes.

If heat-related symptoms appear, action should be taken immediately to reduce body temperature. This includes taking a cool shower, bath or sponge bath. Wearing wet clothing also has a cooling effect.

People who do not have access to air conditioning in their homes are encouraged to seek out air conditioned facilities such as a mall, library or senior center, or stay with family or neighbors who do have air conditioning.

Here are some tips to keep safe in hot weather:

– Never leave individuals, especially children or any household pets, in a parked car – even briefly. Temperatures in a car can become life threatening within minutes. On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a car, even with the windows cracked slightly, can reach 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes, officials said.

– Keep your living space cool. Cover windows to keep the sun from shining in. If you don’t have an air conditioner, open windows to let air circulate. When it’s hotter than 95 degrees, use fans to blow hot air out of the window rather than to blow hot air on your body. Basements or ground floors are often cooler than upper floors.

– Slow down and limit physical activity. Plan outings or exertion for the early morning or after dark when temperatures are cooler.

– Drink plenty of water and eat lightly. Don’t wait for thirst, but instead drink plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid alcohol or caffeine and stay away from hot, heavy meals.

– Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Add a hat or umbrella to keep your head cool – and don’t forget sunscreen.

– Don’t stop taking medication unless your doctor says you should. Take extra care to stay cool and ask your doctor or pharmacist for any special heat advice.

– Taking a cool shower or bath will cool you down. A shower or bath will actually work faster than an air conditioner. Applying cold wet towels to the neck, head and limbs also cools down the body quickly.

– Check on neighbors throughout the day who may need assistance to protect themselves against dangerous temperatures.

Additionally, experts also recommend that residents be sure to watch their pets during the heat. Experts suggest:

– Bring animals inside during hot or humid weather. Pets should not be left outside in very warm, humid conditions for extended periods, even in the shade.

– Ensure that pets have access to plenty of fresh, cool water at all times indoors and out. Hydration is critical to help your pet regulate his body temperature.

– Avoid chaining or tethering a dog outside. He may get twisted and become unable to reach shade or water, or his water dish may get knocked over.

– In homes without air conditioning, use fans to keep air circulating or keep your pet in a cooler area of the house, such as the basement, during the hottest part of the day.

– Avoid vigorously exercising pets during the heat of the day. Instead, take walks in the early morning or evening hours. Avoid hot concrete or asphalt surfaces as they may cause damage or discomfort to the animal’s paw pads.

– Keep in mind that old, young and short-nosed animals such as bulldogs, pugs and Himalayan or Persian cats are especially susceptible to heatstroke. However, it is a concern for all pets during hot weather.

– If you open windows in your home, be sure the screens are secure to prevent cats or other pets from falling out.