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DHSS Press Release

Molly Magarik, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498
Email: Jill.Fredel@delaware.gov

DPH Media Contact:
Tim Turane
Email: DPHMedia@Delaware.gov

Date: June 1, 2022


DOVER (June 1, 2022) - As temperatures soar into the high 80s this week and humidity rises, the Division of Public Health (DPH) reminds Delawareans how to avoid heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps.

Heat-related illness occurs when body temperature rises faster than the body can cool itself. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the two most dangerous types of heat-related illnesses because they can damage the brain and other vital organs and cause death or permanent disability without emergency treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Those at high risk of heat-related illness are infants and children 4 years old and younger; those 65 years of age and older; outdoor workers, athletes, and people who are obese; those who take certain medications, have poor circulation, high blood pressure, and are living with a mental illness. Other risks are fever, sunburn, dehydration, and drinking alcohol.

To avoid a heat-related illness, DPH advises Delawareans to:

Stay cool - Stay in an air-conditioned place and wear light, loose-fitting clothing. Those whose homes are not air-conditioned should spending time in air-conditioned public facilities such as public libraries and malls. During extreme heat events, do not rely on a fan as the primary cooling device. Use air conditioning in vehicles. Take cool showers or baths to cool down and limit outdoor activity, especially mid-day. Check on a friend or neighbor during extreme heat events.

Never leave children, individuals, or pets in cars even if the windows are slightly open. The CDC recommends keeping a stuffed animal in a car safety seat unless a child is buckled in it. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver. Be certain that everyone has exited the car.

Prevent sunburn by wearing sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before going outside and reapply it according to package directions. When outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and cool clothing.

Stay hydrated - In the heat, the CDC recommends drinking more water than usual every hour, regardless of activity. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink, and reach for water instead of caffeinated, alcoholic, and carbonated drinks. A person is drinking enough fluids if they urinate regularly and their urine is pale or clear colored. Symptoms of dehydration are dark urine, thirst, dry mouth, dry lips, headache, and dizziness. Dehydrated individuals should drink a sports drink or fruit juice to replace salt and minerals lost by heavy sweating.

Drink only enough water to relieve thirst. Too much water can cause hyponatremia, a potentially fatal drop in sodium levels. 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. Call 911 for severe symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, confusion, seizures, or coma.

Stay informed - Be aware of local heat alerts and the symptoms of heat-related illness:

Heat stroke is a medical emergency, so call 911 immediately to prevent death or permanent disability. The warning signs of heat stroke are a high body temperature (103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), red, hot, dry or damp skin; a fast, strong pulse; headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and unconsciousness. After calling 911, move the person to a cooler place and help lower their temperature with cool cloths, a cool bath, or spray them with water from a garden hose. Do not give the person anything to drink.

The warning signs of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating; cold, pale, and clammy skin; a fast and weak pulse, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, fainting, tiredness or weakness, and headache. Move victims to a cool place, loosen their clothes, put cool, wet cloths on their body or have them take a cool bath, and have them sip water. Get medical attention right away if victims are throwing up, if symptoms worsen, and if symptoms last longer than one hour. Untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

The warning signs of heat cramps are heavy sweating during intense exercise and muscle pain or spasms. Those with heat cramps should stop physical activity, move to a cool place, and drink a sports drink or water. Get medical help right away if cramps last longer than one hour, if you are on a low-sodium diet, or if you have heart problems.

For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html. An online heat illness prevention course, which is ideal for coaches and athletes, is available at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/athletes.html

Anyone who is deaf, hard of hearing, Deaf-Blind or speech disabled can contact DPH by dialing 711 first using specialized devices (i.e. TTY, TeleBraille, voice devices). The 711 service is free and to learn more about how it works, please visit delawarerelay.com.

DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.