Summertime brings special challenges for families whose children have special needs. Some medical conditions and medications make individuals particularly susceptible to the heat. Be sure to check with your doctor about which medications might increase heat sensitivity.
Keep in mind that extreme heat combined with humidity can make a person even more vulnerable. It’s harder for the body to sweat and cool itself off when the humidity rises, making it even harder to maintain a healthy body temperature.
The US Department of Homeland Security manages a website, Ready.gov, to help people prepare for and mitigate emergencies, including a variety of natural and man-made disasters. The website offers articles translated into a variety of languages. The campaign provides these bits of advice related to the risks of extremely hot weather:
- Extreme heat can occur quickly and without warning.
- Older adults, children, and sick or overweight individuals are at greater risk from extreme heat.
- Humidity increases the feeling of heat as measured by a heat index.
Here are a few ideas for your family when the heat is on:
- Stay indoors and in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible unless you know your body has a high tolerance for heat.
- Drink plenty of fluids but avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine or a lot of sugar.
- Eat more frequently, but make sure meals are balanced and light.
- Never leave any person or pet in a parked vehicle.
- Avoid dressing babies in heavy clothing or wrapping them in warm blankets.
- Check frequently on people who are elderly, ill or may need help. If you might need help, arrange to have family, friends or neighbors check in with you at least twice a day throughout warm weather periods.
- Make sure pets have plenty of water.
- Salt tablets should only be taken if specified by your doctor. If you are on a salt-restrictive diet, check with a doctor before increasing salt intake.
- If you take prescription diuretics, antihistamines, mood-altering or antispasmodic drugs, check with a doctor about the effects of sun and heat exposure.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun. Awnings and window coverings can reduce the heat entering a house by as much as 80 percent.
If you go outside:
- Plan strenuous outdoor activities for early or late in the day, when temperatures are cooler.
- Take frequent breaks when working outdoors.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sun block and light-colored, loose-fitting clothes when outdoors.
- At first signs of heat illness (dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps), move to a cooler location, rest for a few minutes and slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if you do not feel better.
- Avoid sunburn, which slows the skin’s ability to cool itself. Use a sunscreen lotion with a high SPF (sun protection factor) rating.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes. A cool shower immediately after coming in from hot temperatures can result in hypothermia, particularly for elderly or very young people.
If the power goes out or air conditioning is not available
- If air conditioning is not available, stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine.
- Ask your doctor about any prescription medicine you keep refrigerated. (If the power goes out, most medicine will be fine to leave in a closed refrigerator for at least 3 hours.)
- Keep a few bottles of water in your freezer; if the power goes out, move them to your refrigerator and keep the doors shut.
Additional General Resources:
- Hot Weather Precautions | Washington State Department of Health
- Extreme Heat | Washington State Department of Health
- Extreme Heat | Ready.gov
- Extreme Heat Preparedness Checklist (redcross.org)
National Weather Service (NWS):
- Protecting Vulnerable Groups from Extreme Heat | Natural Disasters and Severe Weather | CDC
- Heat and People with Chronic Medical Conditions | Natural Disasters and Severe Weather | CDC
- Heat and the Low Income | Natural Disasters and Severe Weather | CDC
- Heat and Infants and Children | Natural Disasters and Severe Weather | CDC
- Heat Stress in Older Adults | Natural Disasters and Severe Weather | CDC
- Managing Diabetes in the Heat | Diabetes | CDC
Access and Functional Needs Risk Communications:
- Access and Functional Needs Toolkit: Integrating a Community Partner Network to Inform Risk Communication Strategies | State and Local Readiness | CDC
- Access and Functional Needs Toolkit: Integrating a Community Partner Network to Inform Risk Communication Strategies (cdc.gov)
- HHS emPOWER Map – Updated monthly and displays the total number of at-risk electricity-dependent Medicare beneficiaries who rely on durable medical equipment and other essential healthcare services. Map users can select data to inform their emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation public health activities.
- Be Prepared for Extreme Heat | ACL Administration for Community Living