With extremely hot weather continuing to scorch many parts of the country, taking precautions and knowing how to stay safe in the heat is a priority.
Extreme heat and accompanying humidity can create a potentially life-threatening situation. It’s important to be able to recognize the signs of heat distress and know how to take action.
Heat cramps Symptoms: Painful, prolonged muscle cramps, often brought on with strenuous activity. Treatment: Move the person to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle, and replenish their fluids with half a glass (about 4 ounces) of cool water every 15 minutes.
Heat exhaustion Symptoms: cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness.
Treatment: Move the person to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and spray the person with water. You can also apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
Heat stroke Symptoms: Hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting; and high body temperature.
Treatment: This is a life-threatening condition. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.
If you’re planning a trip to the beach for some relief from the sweltering temps, check weather conditions before heading out—and stay away if stormy weather is expected.
When you get to the beach:
- Check to see if any safety signs, warning flags or buoys are up. Ask a lifeguard about water conditions, beach conditions or any potential hazards, such as waves, rip currents and marine life.
- Have young children and inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejackets.
- While at the beach, enter the water feet first if you can’t see the bottom or don’t know how deep the water is.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day—even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol that dehydrate the body.
What’s a rip current? A rip current is a band of water that rushes away from the beach out beyond the breaking waves. They typically form at low spots or gaps in sandbars, and also near structures such as jetties and piers.
Rip currents don’t pull people under the water—they pull them away from the shore, even the strongest swimmers.
What do I do if I’m caught in a rip current?
- Stay calm. Don’t panic, and don’t fight the current.
- Swim parallel to shore until you are out of the rip current.
- Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. If you feel that you won’t make it in to the shore, draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help.
What do I do if I see someone in trouble?
- Immediately alert a lifeguard. If there isn’t a lifeguard around, have someone call 9-1-1.
- Throw the person something that floats, like a lifejacket, and tell them to grab it.
- Tell the person what they should do. (“Don’t panic—relax and swim along the shore until you are out of the current. Then turn and swim to the shore.”)
For more information on water safety and Red Cross swimming programs, visit www.redcross.org/watersafetytips. Contact your local chapter to find out which aquatic facilities in your area offer Red Cross swimming programs.