It sure has been a hot summer so far, and with the aftermath of the recent storm felt across our entire ten-county district, it’s important to know how to stay cool and healthy while your power is out during the extreme heat. As with our situation locally, dealing with extreme heat and no power can linger for days or even weeks. It’s important to take care of yourself, as well as checking on elderly family, friends and neighbors who may not have the opportunity to venture out to a cooler location or have the opportunity to have access to a good meal.
We recently received some very valuable information from our friends at the Ohio Department of Aging and Ohio Department of Health concerning this very topic. Please remember, when it is hot:
· Drink more fluids (non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
· Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library - even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local Emergency Management Agency to see if there are any heat-relief shelters (cooling centers) in your area.
· Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event.
· Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
· Don’t use the stove or oven to cook - it will make you and your house hotter.
· Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
· Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
· Check the local news for health and safety updates.
· Seek medical care immediately if you have, or someone you know has, symptoms of heat-related illness like muscle cramps, headaches, nausea or vomiting.
Look for signs of heat-related illnesses and call 911 if you experience any of them:
· Symptoms of heat exhaustion are: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or fainting. People experiencing these symptoms should be moved to a cool, shady or air-conditioned area, and provided cool, non-alcoholic beverages.
· Heat stroke is a potentially life-threatening condition. Symptoms include: a body temperature of 103 degrees or higher; red, hot and dry skin with no sweating; rapid pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; unconsciousness; and gray skin color.
Food from the refrigerator should be thrown out if the power is out more than four hours. Never taste food to determine its safety; appearance and odor are not indicators of food safety. Keep the door closed as much as possible.
If the power is out for longer than two hours, follow the guidelines below:
· Throw away any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that has been above 40 °F for over two (2) hours.
· For the refrigerator: pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, gravy and spoilable leftovers into a cooler surrounded by ice. Inexpensive styrofoam coolers are fine for this purpose.
· A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it.
During this extreme heat, please check on your elderly family, friends and neighbors. You might be their only contact and can identify whether they are in danger during high temperatures. If our Agency can be of assistance to you when identifying needs that an individual might have for beyond the storm aftermath, please call our Agency and we can schedule an in-home assessment at no-cost to identify what resources are available in the community to best serve their needs.
Pamela K. Matura is Executive Director, Area Agency on Aging District 7.