People, pets should take steps to keep cool during heat wave

July 25, 2009

By Staff

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NEW — 6 a.m. July 25, 2009

As the mercury pushes past 90 during the next few days, health and safety officials urged residents to keep cool. Heat can be especially tough on children, senior citizens and people with chronic illnesses.

“The danger for heat-related illnesses rises when outside temperatures are very high,” Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in a news release. “Fortunately, all of us can prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke with some simple steps.”

Health officials offered recommendations to stay cool:

  • Wear lightweight clothing.
  • Spend time in air-conditioned buildings. If your home lacks air conditioning, beat the heat at a mall or movie theater.
  • Drink plenty of water or nonalcoholic beverages, and avoid waiting until you feel thirsty to drink.
  • Limit your direct exposure to sunlight if you go outside.
  • Never leave infants or children in a parked car, even if the windows are open.
  • Limit outdoor activities to mornings and evenings, when temperatures are less brutal.
  • Avoid strenuous activities.
  • Check on elderly neighbors and relatives.

Know the signs of heat exhaustion.

Overheating occurs when people are unable to cool themselves fast enough. The condition can lead to symptoms of heat exhaustion, including muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting. If you notice someone with signs of overheating, move the person to a cooler location, have them rest for a few minutes and slowly drink a cool beverage.

Seek medical attention immediately if they do not feel better.

In severe instances, people can suffer heat stroke, which can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
  • red, hot and dry skin
  • rapid, strong pulse
  • nausea, confusion and unconsciousness

Get more tips and resources about staying cool here.

When temperatures reach near-record levels, remember the effects of heat on your pets, too.

King County Animal Care and Control officials urged animal owners to take precautions to keep pets cool and safe.

“During the last heat wave in early June, animal control officers responded to numerous calls from concerned members of the public regarding dogs left in cars during hot weather,” King County Animal Care and Control Manager Nancy McKenney said in a news release. “Cars are like ovens — the temperature inside rises very fast, even in the shade and with the windows cracked.”

Leaving animals in a hot car can also lead to animal cruelty charges.

Animals left in a hot car — even for a short time — can suffer from heatstroke or death. Leave pets at home instead of taking them on errands in warm weather.

Pets left alone in vehicles run a risk of developing heat stroke. Heat stroke develops rapidly and can lead to severe problems like organ failure or death.

If you see a pet in a hot car, contact security at the location. Guards can often use security camera footage to find the owner of the car to unlock it quickly. They can also contact Animal Care and Control for additional assistance.

If no security is available, call 206-296-PETS and an animal control officer will respond.

Pets are also susceptible to sunburn and other heat-related maladies. Paws can burn when walking on hot pavement and the skin on a dog’s nose can sunburn.

Animals need access to shade and lots of fresh, cool water when playing outdoors. Do not overexert pets during the warmest hours of the day. Avoid long walks or extended exercise in the heat of the sun.

If a dog or cat becomes overheated, apply cool water or cold towels to its head, neck and chest. Then, immediately take the animal to a veterinarian.

“Dogs and cats do not sweat through their skin,” Seattle Humane Society CEO Brenda Barnette said in a news release. “They cool themselves by rapid breathing, and when the temperature outside is hot and close to their internal body temperature, it means animals must work hard to stay cool. So, when it’s hot for you, it’s even hotter for them!”

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