Take precautions in hot weather

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Public works employees Logan Watson and Robert Elliott brave the heat to install a new drain at the city sports complex. Stephanie Nelson/Star-News

As sweltering summer temps sweep across the south, local residents should take precautions against heat-related incidents.

At 1:30 p.m., the temperature was 101 degrees, and at the new site of Legions Field, City of Andalusia utility workers were busy installing a drain at the rear of the parking lot.

Public Works director Jim Hogg said employees are instructed to keep hydrated and to take breaks to avoid heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

“We tell them – plenty of liquids,” Hogg said. “And if they feel like they’re getting too hot, take a break.”

Public works employee Robert Elliott said for him, that means “plenty of water and Gatorade.”

“And my poor man’s toupee, here,” he said tugging at the brim of his hat. “I use that to keep the sun off my head. I don’t use sunscreen.”

Employees are regulated to a 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. work schedule, which gives extra work time in the early morning hours that, in the summer, help to avoid the summer sun.

The American Red Cross recommends using the following to avoid heat related illnesses.

• Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy. It is also a good idea to wear hats or to use an umbrella.

• Drink water. Carry water or juice with you and drink continuously even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which dehydrate the body. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.

• Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid high-protein foods, which increase metabolic heat.

• Slow down. Avoid strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually in the morning between 4 and 7 a.m.

• Stay indoors when possible. If air-conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine.  Remember that electric fans do not cool. They simply circulate the air.

• Be a good neighbor. During heat waves, check in on elderly residents in your neighborhood and those who do not have air conditioning.

In the event someone does suffer from heat cramps or heat exhaustion, it’s imperative to get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position.

If the person is fully awake and alert, give half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Don’t let them too quickly. Do not give liquids that contain alcohol or caffeine. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths, such as towels or sheets. Call 911 if the person refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness.

Heat strokes are life-threatening situations that require help immediately. Call 911. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body. Immerse victim in a cool bath, or wrap wet sheets around the body and fan it. Watch for signals of breathing problems. Keep the person lying down and continue to cool the body any way you can. If the victim refuses water or is vomiting or there are changes in the level of consciousness, do not give anything to eat or drink.