A Construction worker suffering from excessive heat during his regular work schedule which normally takes place outdoors. Photo credit: King County Public Health.
By Jennifer Dev
When it’s hot, our region sees a spike in the number of people who have serious health problems like heart attacks, stroke, and kidney failure. And if you’ve lived in King County for a while, you may have noticed that the summer weather keeps getting hotter.
Because of climate change, we have seen record high temperatures in the past few years, and that is unfortunately likely to continue. Since many of our houses and apartments here in the Pacific Northwest are not equipped with air conditioning, that means it’s extra important to know what steps you can take to stay cool on hot days.
Do you know your sensitivity to heat?
The mild climate in the Pacific Northwest makes us more sensitive to the heat, especially after a long period of cold and wet weather. Some people feel the heat more than others and should take extra care when the temperature goes up, such as:
- Adults age 65 and older
- Young children (especially at high risk in parked cars)
- People with chronic health conditions or mental illness
- People living unsheltered or homeless
- Outdoor workers
- Athletes who exercise outdoors
Some medications can also make it harder to stay hydrated and control body temperature in the heat, including those for allergies and colds, thyroid, depression, heart/blood pressure, and weight loss. Ask your doctor if you may be more sensitive to heat.
If you are at higher risk, be extra careful to stay cool, drink water, and take breaks if you’re feeling overheated.
How to stay safe in the heat
If you don’t have air conditioning, keep your living space cool during hot weather by closing the curtains or blinds to keep out the sun, use fans to circulate cool air, and visit public places that have air conditioning, such as libraries, malls, and community centers. If you feel yourself overheating, put cold and damp towels on your head, take a cool shower, and slowly sip cool drinks to stay hydrated.
These comics have more tips on who is at risk and what to do to stay safe in the heat.
Visit kingcounty.gov/BeatTheHeat for more tips on staying cool.
Jennifer Dev is Communications Specialist III at Public Health – Seattle & King County | Communications Team. She has been working with Runta News to educate the public about the extreme heat during the summer that has recently become part of our normal life due to the climate and global warming.