Heat wave arrives in West Texas

The sizzing temperatures have been the talk of the town, not only in Van Horn, but throughout West Texas. 

Temperatures have soared to well past 100 degrees, according to El Paso and Midland-Odessa news organizations. According to these forecasts, there is no relief in sight for the 100-degree weather until at least Sunday, when the high temperature should be about 94.

The heat can be very brutal, especially on pets, and those persons who have to work outside.  What should you do when a heat advisory is issued? According to the Centers for Disease Control, these are the measures you should take during a heat wave:

  1. Stay indoors and avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a shopping mall or watch a movie at the theaters.
  • Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
  • Drink cool liquids often, particularly water, even if you do not feel thirsty, to help your body stay cool.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages, which dehydrate the body.
  • During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.
  • Keep pets indoors; refill their water bowls frequently.
  • Cover all exposed skin with a high SPF sunscreen, and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and head.
  • Never leave infants, children, or pets in a parked car, fatality can occur faster during this heat.
  • Never take a cool shower immediately after becoming overheated. You may cool too quickly and become ill, nauseous, or dizzy.
Also, you must know the symptoms of heat disorders.

Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, those with high blood pressure, and those working or exercising in a hot environment.
Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, cold and clammy skin, a weak pulse, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting. If untreated, the victim’s condition could worsen; the body temperature could keep rising, possibly leading to heat stroke.

Treatment: Rest in a cool place. Loosen clothing and apply cool, wet cloths or take a cool shower or bath. Drink cool beverages unless nausea occurs. If vomiting occurs, seek medical attention.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down.

Symptoms: The ability to sweat stops; red, hot, dry skin; extremely high body temperature; rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; unconsciousness. Body temperature can rise so high that brain damage or death can occur within 10-15 minutes unless medical help is immediate.

Treatment: Call 911 immediately for emergency medical services. Try to cool the victim as rapidly as possible. Remove clothing; use a cool sponge bath or fan; put the person in a cool bath or shower; use a garden hose. Do not give fluids.
Experts encourage families to keep a close eye on older loved ones during a heat wave 
Nobody likes extreme and prolonged heat, but such conditions can be very dangerous and potentially deadly for seniors. 

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. On average, exces

sive heat claims more lives each year than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and lightning combined (http://www.noaawatch.gov/themes/heat.php).

 “The elderly are often the most vulnerable to severe heat,” said Jan Wimsatt, local owner of Home Instead Senior Care® franchise office serving Las Cruces. “Their bodies do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature, they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat and they are often on a prescription medicine that impairs the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibits perspiration,” she continued.

Following are tips from the local Home Instead Senior Careoffice, to help seniors combat the heat:
•Keep a glass of water in every room to quickly and easily access fluids. Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
•Go through the closet and remove all heavy materials, long sleeves and dark colors. Instead look for short sleeves, lightweight rayons or cottons, and light-colored clothing that reflect the heat.
•Stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult.
•Save household chores, particularly washing and drying clothes and operating the dishwasher, for evenings when the weather is cooler.
•Relax indoors during high heat times – between 3 and 5 p.m. in the afternoon.
•Keep shades down and blinds pulled during the heat of the day.
•Keep the house tightly closed, so it is more energy efficient.
•Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
•Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Foods with a lot of protein increase metabolic heat production which can, in turn, increase water loss.
•If increased use of a central air conditioning system causes higher utility bills that are a problem for your budget, consider purchasing a fan or  small window unit that can cool down a home at a lower cost. However, do not rely on a fan as the primary cooling device  during an extreme heat event.
•Seek medical care immediately if your senior shows symptoms of heat-related illness like muscle cramps, headaches, nausea or vomiting.