Maine CDC Press Release

July 19, 2019

Maine CDC Urges Caution in Excessive Heat

Keep Cool, Drink Fluids, and Lie Low

AUGUSTA – With much of Maine heading into the weekend under an excessive heat watch or advisory issued by the National Weather Service, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds Mainers to stay cool and recognize the signs of heat illness early.

"Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable," said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. "With hot weather, we are especially concerned about older Mainers, particularly those who live alone, because they are more likely to have serious health problems. Keeping cool, drinking adequate fluids, and lying low, along with looking after our neighbors, families, and friends will help us all to stay healthy during heat waves this summer."

In Maine, individuals over the age of 65 represent the largest proportion of people who are hospitalized for heat-related illness. Lack of air conditioning, taking prescription medication, and physical or mental health challenges common among older adults increase the potential for heat-related illnesses. It is important for family and friends to visit older adults at least twice daily and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Those signs include headache, lightheadedness, weakness, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, nausea, or vomiting.

Although older persons are most at risk of serious heat-related illness and hospitalizations, most heat-related illness and emergency department visits occur in Mainers ages 15-64, especially men. These illnesses may be due to outdoor jobs or recreational activities.

Anyone recreating outside should pay attention during high heat conditions.

"It is important for coaches and camp counselors to make sure youth are given frequent rest breaks and drink plenty of fluids," said Director Shah. "Participants should be encouraged to take a water or rest break whenever they desire. Strenuous activities may need to be curtailed or altered during unhealthy extreme heat."

Other people at risk for serious health effects due to heat include infants and young children, and people who work outside, have chronic health issues, or have trouble caring for themselves.

Signs of heat-related illnesses include dry, hot, red skin; a rapid pulse; a high temperature; headache; confusion or loss of alertness; rapid breathing; unconsciousness or coma. If you notice someone with these signs, call 911 immediately and move the person out of the sun, loosen their clothes, and cool them rapidly with ice, fans, cold water, or wet cloths.

To prevent heat-related illness:

Keep Cool

  • Use air conditioning to cool down or go to an air-conditioned building such as a store, a library, or a cooling center. Call 2-1-1 to find out if a cooling center is open near you or visit the Maine Emergency Management Agency's online list.
  • If you don't have air conditioning in your home, open windows and shades on the shady side and close them on the sunny side.
  • Take a cool shower or bath.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Stay out of the sun as much as possible.
  • Wear sunscreen and a ventilated hat (e.g., straw or mesh) when outdoors, even if it is cloudy.
  • Never leave children, pets or those with special needs in a parked car, even briefly. Temperatures in the car can become dangerous within a few minutes. Even with the windows rolled down two inches, it takes only 10 minutes for the inside of a vehicle to reach deadly temperatures on a hot summer day.

Drink Fluids

  • Drink more fluids regardless of your activity level.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks, since these cause you to lose more body fluid.
  • If you are on fluid restrictions or take diuretics, ask your doctor how much fluid you should drink.

Lie Low

  • Take regular breaks from any necessary physical activity - at least every hour.
  • Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day (between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.).

If you must be out in the heat:

  • Try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
  • Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink one cup (8 ounces) of cool, nonalcoholic fluids every 20 minutes. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage.
  • Rest often in shady areas at least every hour.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" on their labels).

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