Maine CDC Press Release

July 20, 2011

Maine CDC Issues Advisory As Nation's Heat Wave Approaches

AUGUSTA – Parts of Maine will experience unusually hot weather over the next two days. Heat and humidity will be highest on Thursday and persist through Friday in the southern and southwestern parts of the state, especially in York, Cumberland, and Oxford Counties. Nighttime temperatures will also be higher than usual.

The Maine Center for Disease Control (Maine CDC) in the Department of Health and Human Services advises people in Maine to take precautions to prevent heat illness.

Heat is a serious health threat; every year, more people die from heat than from all other weather events combined. Extreme heat is rare in Maine, but its effects may be even more dangerous, because Maine citizens are not physically acclimated to heat and because many homes and buildings are not air conditioned.

During the past 10 years, Maine CDC has found that rates of hospitalizations and Emergency Department visits are significantly higher on the hottest days than on cooler days, both for heat illness and for other health conditions, such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and kidney disease, which are exacerbated when the body is taxed by extreme heat.

Heat illness is preventable and people can take simple steps to protect themselves, their families, and their neighbors.

How to Prevent Heat Illness:

  • Keep cool. Stay inside and out of the sun. Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Spend time in air conditioned spaces – a public library, store, restaurant, movie theater, or cooling center if your home is not air conditioned. Use cold water to cool down; take a cold shower or bath.
  • Drink fluids. Drink more fluids then you normally would, regardless of your activity level. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks, as these can be dehydrating.
  • Lie low. Take breaks from physical activity at least every hour. Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day (between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
  • Limit activity and protect yourself if you must be outside. Reduce your activity level. If possible, limit your activity to morning and evening hours. If you work outdoors or in a hot place, drink one cup of cool, non-alcoholic fluids every 20 minutes. Take frequent rest breaks in shady or air-conditioned places.
  • Look out for others who may be vulnerable. Elderly people, those who live alone, infants and young children, people who work outside and those with existing health conditions or mental illness are most at risk. Check a few times a day on neighbors, friends, and family who may be more susceptible to the heat.

What To Do If Someone Is Ill:

Heat stroke is the most dangerous type of heat illness; it occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. Warning signs include dry, hot, red skin (no sweating); a rapid pulse; a high temperature; headache; confusion or loss of alertness; rapid breathing; unconsciousness or coma.

  • Call 911 immediately. Move the person out of the sun, loosen their clothes, and cool them rapidly with ice, fans, cool water, or wet cloths.

Heat exhaustion is less severe than heat stroke, and typically occurs when people over-exert in hot or humid weather. Symptoms include heavy sweating, fainting, vomiting, cold, pale, or clammy skin, dizziness, headache, nausea, and weakness.

→ Cool off. Move the person out of the sun, loosen their clothes, and cool them with water or wet cloths. Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke. If symptoms worsen or do not improve, get medical help.

For more information, please see the Maine CDC’s Heat page: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/heat/index.shtml.

For weather forecast information, please contact the National Weather Service’s Gray Weather Forecast Office at 207-688-3216 or 207-688-3210 (recorded forecast), or visit their website: http://www.weather.gov/gray.