Public Health Officials Urge Californians to Stay Informed and Protect Themselves During Heat Wave
SACRAMENTO – As climate change makes our summers hotter and the state enters the hottest and longest heat wave of the year, public health officials urge Californians to stay informed about the current extreme heat event and protect themselves and others to prevent heat-related illnesses.
“High temperatures need to be taken seriously because they can impact a person’s health,” said the Director of California Department of Public Health and State Public Health Officer, Dr. Tomás Aragón. “It’s important to stay informed and protect yourself and those you care about from hot temperatures by checking weather forecasts and alerts, staying hydrated, limiting time outdoors, checking in with older neighbors, and visiting cooling centers.”
“Extreme heat poses a substantial health risk, especially for young children, the elderly, people with chronic diseases, pregnant individuals, people with disabilities, and people who are socially isolated,” said Dr. Aragón. Heat-related illnesses include cramps, heat exhaustion and, most seriously, heat stroke and death. Warning signs of heat-related illness vary, but may include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, nausea or vomiting, paleness, tiredness, dizziness, or disorientation or confusion.
There are simple but important steps you can take to stay safe:
- Those lacking air conditioning should go to a cooling center, library or public place such as a shopping mall to cool off for a few hours each day.
- Keep in mind: Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, they will not prevent heat-related illnesses. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.
- Avoid physical exertion or exercising outdoors during the hottest parts of the day to avoid overheating. Reduce exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest and keep physical activities to a minimum during that time.
- When working outside, drink plenty of fluids even if you are not thirsty and take rest breaks in the shade.
- To prevent overheating, use cool compresses, misting, showers and baths. Get medical attention if you experience a rapid, strong pulse, feel delirious, or have a body temperature above 102 degrees.
- NEVER leave infants, children or frail elderly unattended in a parked car – it can take as little as 10 minutes for the temperature inside a car to rise to levels that can kill.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to cover the face and neck, and wear loose-fitting clothing to keep cool and to protect your skin from the sun and mosquitoes.
- Wear sunglasses that provide 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. Chronic exposure to the sun can cause cataracts, which left untreated, can lead to blindness.
- Liberally apply sunscreen (at least SPF 15) 15 minutes before venturing outdoors and re-apply at least every two hours – sunscreen may reduce the risk of skin cancer, the number one cancer affecting Californians. Sunscreen may also prevent premature aging.
- Drink Plenty of Fluids: Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
- Warning: If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
- Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
- Replace Salt and Minerals: Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.
- If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.
- Keep Your Pets Hydrated: Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets and leave the water in a shady area.
- Check for Updates: Check your local news for weather forecasts, extreme heat alerts, and safety tips, and to learn about any cooling centers in your area.
- Know the Signs:
- Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to treat them.
- Monitor Those at High Risk: Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illnesses, some people are at greater risk than others:
- Infants and young children
- People 65 years of age or older
- People who are overweight
- People who overexert during work or exercise
- People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation
- Use a Buddy System:
- When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness.
- If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day (many may be on medications which increase likelihood of dehydration).
- Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.
For Athletes (source: CDC):
If you plan to exercise while it’s hot outside:
- Limit outdoor activity, especially during the middle of the day when the sun is hottest.
- Wear and reapply sunscreen as indicated on the package.
- Schedule workouts and practices earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler.
- Pace activity. Start activities slow and pick up the pace gradually.
- Drink more water than usual, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more. Muscle cramping may be an early sign of heat-related illness.
- Monitor a teammate’s condition and have someone do the same for you.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
WARNING! If you feel faint or weak, STOP all activity and get to a cool place.
In California, employers with outdoor places of employment are required to prevent heat illness in their employees. To prevent heat illness, the law requires employers to provide outdoor workers with fresh water, access to shade at 80 degrees and whenever requested by a worker, cool-down rest breaks in addition to regular breaks, and maintain a written prevention plan with training on the signs of heat illness and what to do in case of an emergency.
For more information, please see Cal/OSHA’s webpage on Heat Illness Prevention (https://www.dir.ca.gov/DOSH/HeatIllnessInfo.html).
For Local Governments and Community Organizations:
CDPH has posted adaptable social media and heat-related messaging in its Heat & Summer Safety communications toolkit.