As the state’s temperatures break into the upper 90s and possibly triple digits by this weekend, health officials are recommending Oregonians take steps to prevent heat-related illnesses that can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, according to an Oregon Health Authority press release.
“Summer-like weather in Oregon is great and people want to be outdoors, but temperatures at or above 100 degrees can be dangerous,” says Katrina Hedberg, M.D., state epidemiologist and state health officer at the Public Health Division. “Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are real problems that can lead to death, so people need to take precautions to protect their health. As people seek to beat the heat they often head to the rivers and lakes where drowning and hypothermia are concerns.”
According to the National Weather Service, the hottest weather of the year so far is expected to arrive throughout Oregon Saturday and Sunday. The forecast for John Day calls for high temperatures of 94 degrees Saturday and Sunday and 93 degrees on Monday.
The forecast for most of the rest of the state calls for temperatures in the high 90s to just over 100 degrees in lower elevations and above 90 in higher-elevation areas.
The Oregon Public Health Division offers the following tips for staying safe and healthy during extreme heat conditions:
• Stay in air-conditioned places when temperatures are high, if possible.
• Limit exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest. Try to schedule activities in the morning and evening.
• Open windows to allow fresh air to circulate, especially during morning and evening hours, and close shades on west-facing windows during the afternoon hours.
• Use portable electric fans to exhaust hot air from rooms or draw in cooler air.
• Wear loose-fitting clothing to keep cool and protect your skin from the sun.
• Use cool compresses, misting, and cool showers and baths.
• Avoid hot foods and heavy meals; they add heat to the body.
• Never leave infants or children in a parked car. Nor should pets be left in parked cars — they, too, can suffer heat-related illness.
• Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
• Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 when going outside.
• Regardless of your level of activity, drink plenty of fluids, even if you are not thirsty and especially when working outside.
• Avoid alcohol or liquids containing large amounts of sugar.
• Be aware that rivers are running fast with spring run-off and may be a challenge for even the most experienced simmers.
• Keep an eye on the water temperature. Even though it is hot, if water temperatures are 60 degrees or lower you could develop hypothermia if you stay in too long. This can cause disorientation, fatigue and even drowning.
• Young children and non-swimmers should wear properly fitted life jackets in and near the water. Air-filled and foam toys such as water wings, water noodles and inner tubes are not designed to keep swimmer safe and should not be counted on.
• Make sure children do not have unsupervised access to pools by fencing pools in and ensuring gates are closed. Kid pools are also a concern and should be fenced in or drained when they are not being supervised.
• When supervising children or non-swimmers, stay focused and avoid distractions like reading, texting, talking on the phone or doing chores.
• Don’t consume alcohol before or during boating, swimming, tubing or other water activities.
People with a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or kidney disease may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. People in this category should be closely monitored to make sure they’re drinking enough water, have access to air conditioning and know how to keep cool.
Those who exercise or work outdoors in extreme heat are more likely to become dehydrated and get heat-related illness and should pay particular attention to staying as cool and hydrated as possible.
Children and those with seizures are particularly vulnerable to drowning, so special attention should be given to their water safety.
For more information, visit the Oregon Public Health Division Extreme Heat page at public.health.oregon.gov/Preparedness/Prepare/Pages/PrepareForExtremeHeat.aspx or the CDC Heat Stress page at cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress. Information on Extreme Heat for vulnerable groups is available in English and Spanish and can be found at emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/specificgroups.asp.