As heat indexes climb, local health officials share tips to stay safe in extreme heat

Posted at 6:55 PM, Jul 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 18:55:58-04

NORFOLK, Va. -- As the daytime heat index expected to reach or exceed 100 degrees over the next couple of days, local health officials say it's important for people to protect themselves.

According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, in 2019 there were 12 heat-related deaths in Virginia.

Health officials say one of the most important precautions people should take is to schedule or reschedule activities and outdoor work until the coolest parts of the day. During the summer, sunlight exposure is greatest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

They shared some more steps you can take to protect yourself against heat-related illnesses:

  • Keep cool in an air-conditioned area. Take a cool shower or a bath. Spending at least two hours a day in air conditioning significantly reduces the risk of heat-related illnesses. When temperatures reach the upper 90s or above, a fan may not prevent heat-related illness.
  • Stay indoors or find a cooling center in your area on an extremely hot day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids: Two to four glasses of cool fluids every hour. To replace salt and minerals lost from sweating, drink fruit juice or a sports beverage during exercise or when you have to work outside. However, talk to your doctor first if you are on a fluid-restricted diet or medications or on a low-salt diet.
  • Avoid sunburn and wear light-colored clothing. Sunburn limits your body’s ability to keep itself cool and causes loss of body fluids. Use sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or greater, and apply it at least 20 minutes before going outside.
  • Lighter weight clothing that is loose-fitting and light-colored is more comfortable during extreme temperatures. Wear a hat to keep your head cool.
  • Give your body a break since extreme heat can be stressful on your body. Limit physical activity until your body adjusts to the heat.
  • Never leave children or pets in cars. Temperatures inside a car can reach more than 150 degrees quickly, resulting in heat stroke and death.
  • Use the “buddy system” if you are working outside. While working outside and you suffer a heat-related illness, you could become confused or could lose consciousness. Therefore, make sure someone else knows of your plans.
  • Be sure to check on the elderly and neighbors without air conditioning.

For more information about heat-related illnesses, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website here.