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Marylanders reminded to stay safe in hot weather

6/16/2014, 6 a.m.

As temperatures in Maryland start heating up, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) reminds Marylanders to take the necessary precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses.

“Heat-related illnesses can be preventable,” says Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, DHMH Secretary. “Marylanders should know the signs and symptoms and how they can protect themselves to stay safe this summer.”

Heat stroke is a serious illness characterized by a body temperature greater than 105 degrees. Symptoms may include dry red skin, convulsions, disorientation, delirium and coma. Onset of heat stroke can be rapid; serious symptoms can occur within minutes. Treatment involves the rapid lowering of body temperature using a cool bath or wet towels. Keep victims of heat stroke in a cool area and immediately call 911.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat stroke that may develop due to a combination of several days with high temperatures and dehydration in an individual. Signs of heat exhaustion include extreme weakness, muscle cramps, nausea or headache. Victims may also vomit or faint. Heat exhaustion is treated with plenty of liquids and rest in a cool, shaded area. Those on a low-sodium diet or with other health problems should contact a doctor.

In 2013, there were 17 confirmed heat-related deaths from May through September in Maryland.

DHMH offers the following hot weather tips:

●Drink plenty of fluids, such as water and fruit juice, to prevent dehydration. Alcohol can impair the body’s sweat mechanism, as can some common medications, such as antihistamines and diuretics.

●Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothes.

●Avoid direct sunlight by staying in the shade and wear sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

●Stay in air-conditioned areas when possible. If your home is not air-conditioned, consider a visit to a shopping mall or public library or stay with family or friends who have air conditioning. Contact your local health department to see if there are cooling shelters open in your area.

●NEVER leave pets or children in a car, even with the windows cracked.

●Check on elderly relatives or neighbors at least daily, and make sure they have a cool environment to live in during extreme heat.

●Take it easy when outdoors. Athletes and those who work outdoors should take short breaks when feeling fatigued. Schedule physical activity during the morning or evening when it is cooler.

From June through the beginning of September, DHMH monitors temperature conditions and advisories issued by the National Weather Service and alerts residents of Extreme Heat Events.

During extended Extreme Heat Events, reports will be issued daily. To see the reports, visit: www.dhmh.maryland.gov/extremeheat.

Marylanders in need of a cooling center should contact their local health department or visit the DHMH heat emergency website: www.dhmh.maryland.gov/extremeheat.

Maryland residents in need of energy assistance to keep cool this summer should call

2-1-1 Maryland to see if there are resources available to help.