WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM) — With temperatures reaching dangerous levels in the four-state region, keeping cool over the next few days is going to be critical.
Health officials warn the potential for heat-related illnesses rises as the air temperature inches closer to the human body’s internal temperature. Director of the Lord Fairfax Health District Dr. Colin Greene says the best way to stay safe during the heatwave is to have a game plan.
“When there’s a threat to your body and your health, the first thing you want to try to do is to avoid the threat,” he said. “If you can’t avoid the threat, you want to mitigate the threat. And if you can’t either of those, then you look out for the symptoms.”
Top on the list of ways to avoid the heat: stay indoors.
“When you know it’s going to be hot, don’t plan a lot of exertion outside,” Greene said. “For example, you know you have to do outdoor work, you know it’s going to be hot, first thing in the morning, get up at sunrise. Do it then. Or just move the exertion to another day.”
Establish a buddy system if being outdoors is a must. Greene asks residents to check on their neighbors, especially the elderly and those without air conditioning.
For some, like fitness fanatics, avoiding the heat isn’t an option they’re willing to choose, and for others, perhaps the homeless, it’s not an option at all.
For those who want to burn calories in these burning temps, there are some ways to minimize exposure says Jeremy Wright, the CEO of BodyRenew Winchester.
“Swiming would be good exercise that would keep your temperature down,” Wright said. “Always do some videos if you’re an at-home-workout person or an outdoor-workout person. You can probably get a trial membership at a local gym if you’re a local resident because gyms always want to let people try them out.”
Experts say before and during any exposure to the heat, people should alternate drinking between water and a sports drink, something with electrolytes, like Gatorade.
“Plan on drinking a quart of fluid an hour,” said Greene. “Sounds like a lot but you’ll be surprised, you sweat it out very quickly.”
But steer clear of alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which cause dehydration.
If someone is overheating, Len Clowser, a Master Technician with the Winchester Fire & Rescue recommends skipping the air conditioning in favor of the shade, and grab some cool but not ice-cold water.
“You run to the air conditioner, which sometimes that could cause more damage than the sun itself. So it’s just a shock to the body and shade is your best cover if you get overheated,” he said, adding that if the body is suddenly too cold, the person will start to shiver, essentially forcing the body to work even harder. “Never drink the cold water. It sends a shock to the body as well. You always want to drink room temperature or slightly cool water and it helps the body absorb a little bit quicker than the cold.”
Once the body begins to cool down a bit, moving into direct air conditioning and drinking colder water is typically fine.
The levels of heat sickness vary: simple heat illness may result in muscle cramps and a headache, while heavy sweating and clammy skin is an indication of heat exhaustion, which is more serious.
If someone has any of the following symptoms, they may be suffering from heatstroke, which is a medical emergency: if they stop sweating and their skin is dry and cool to the touch, or if they are disoriented, vomiting or having seizures, seek help immediately. Additionally, if the individual’s body temperature is over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, they’re suffering from heatstroke.