The Shapiro Administration is reminding Pennsylvanians to take summer heat seriously, with forecasts calling for heat and humidity that will make temperatures feel like the upper 90’s to low 100’s this week.
“According to the National Weather Service, heat is the most prevalent weather-related cause of death in the United States,” said Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Randy Padfield. “It’s especially dangerous for children and older adults, those working outdoors, and urban areas where heat can build up due to asphalt and concrete and nighttime cooling is minimal. In particular, it is never safe to leave people or pets inside cars even if windows are cracked open. Temperatures can quickly rise to dangerous levels, leading to dozens of avoidable deaths each year. Keep cars locked even when parked in a driveway to keep children from unknowingly climbing inside.”
“We ask all Pennsylvanians to be a good neighbor and check on people who may have limited mobility or may not have a way to escape the heat,” said Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Debra Bogen. “Remember to wear appropriate clothing, stay hydrated, exercise safely, and look out for children, older adults and pets.”
It is important to understand the spectrum of heat-related illnesses, including heat cramps (mildest), heat exhaustion and heat stroke (most severe). Awareness allows you to prevent heat related illness and recognize early stages, intervene as early in the course as possible, and help in an emergency.
Heat cramps are painful muscle cramps and spasms that occur during or after exercise and sweating in high heat. Treatment at this stage includes moving to a cool place and rest, removing excess clothing, placing cool clothes on skin, fanning the skin, drinking cool sports drinks with sugar and salt, and stretching cramped muscles slowly and gently.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, fainting, and nausea or vomiting. Help the person cool off as with heat cramps and seek medical attention if symptoms are severe, or if symptoms last more than one hour, or the person has heart problems or high blood pressure.
Symptoms of heat stroke include a high body temperature (above 103°F); red, hot and dry skin, but no sweating; a rapid pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness.
If you think someone is having a heat stroke, it is important to first call 9-1-1. After calling for help, get the person to a shady area and quickly cool them down by putting them in a tub of cool water or spraying them with a garden hose. Provide fluids in the form of cold sports drink only if the person is alert and can drink.
“Older adults are at higher risk for heat-related illness or worse. They also may not have access to fans, air conditioners, or may have limited mobility to escape extreme heat. So it’s important that all of us check on our older family members, neighbors, and friends to make sure they stay cool and hydrated,” said Secretary of Aging Jason Kavulich. “Pennsylvania’s Area Agencies on Aging are a great resource for older adults to learn about senior community centers acting as cooling stations in their neighborhood and other supports that may be available. Seniors can also check with their local municipality to find out if there are libraries, churches or other facilities that may be offering opportunities to keep cool.”
Older adults can visit the Department of Aging’s website to find their local Area Agency on Aging.
“Heat stress is a real threat for pets and livestock,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “Since the temperature in a hot car can become suffocating within a matter of minutes, never leave your pets in the car, and make sure all animals have access to shade and plenty of clean, cool water.”
Secretary Redding provided additional tips to keep pets and livestock safe:
Provide shade – move animals to shaded areas if possible. Provide water – as temperatures rise, animals need to consume more water. Provide fans – air movement can help lower humidity in areas where animals gather. Fans and water sprinklers work together for quicker, more effective evaporative cooling. Avoid overworking livestock – it’s safest to work with livestock early in the morning when their body temperatures are lower. Postpone routine health management such as nail or hoof trimming that might add stress until the weather cools. Avoid unnecessary transportation – if livestock must be moved, do so in the late evening or early morning hours. Walk dogs in early morning or late evening, when temperatures are cooler.