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Keep safety in mind with expected extreme heat

Jul 01, 2014

The staff and physicians of Salem Hospital’s emergency department want area residents to stay healthy and safe today with expected temperatures near 100 degrees.

They offer these tips to help you, your children, and even your parents, stay safe, and what to do if you have problems in the heat.

Stay well hydrated

  • Aim for two to three quarts of fluid per day (non-caffeinated).
  • Water is good, but do not limit your intake to just water. You also need electrolytes, which you can get from a variety of sports drinks.
  • If you are thirsty, you have waited too long.
  • One way to tell if you are getting enough fluid is to look at your urine. In general, it should be clear. Yellow urine means you need to drink more water, unless it is affected by food, vitamin, medication or caffeine intake.
  • Limit alcohol intake during hot weather. It doesn’t count toward your water consumption and it can impair your judgment.
  • Be smart about your outdoor activities
  • Unless your job requires you to be outdoors, stay inside.
  • If you have to be outdoors, avoid strenuous activities between the hottest times of the day, typically 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • If you need to be outdoors, prime the pump before you go. In other words, start your fluid intake before you take your first step outside.
  • Wear sun block and a hat.
  • Use a water spritzer to cool off. Battery-operated, hand-held fans may also be helpful.

Some people need extra precautions

  • “Before the day is over, call your mom and check on her,” says Heather Cofer, RN, emergency department assistant nurse manager with Salem Hospital. High heat can cause people to be confused. So be sure to check on your elderly relatives or neighbors to see how they’re doing.
  • The very young and the elderly are most susceptible to thermal-regulation problems. Their bodies simply have a harder time regulating heat. They especially should avoid the outdoors and manage their fluid intake. This is also true for people with chronic illnesses, like those on dialysis.
  • Children can become dehydrated much more quickly than adults. Be sure they get enough fluid and follow all heat and sun-safety procedures.
  • Don’t overdress your newborn. If you’re wearing a tank top and shorts, then a similar outfit for your baby is appropriate, whether it be a shorts outfit or simply a t-shirt and diaper. Stay in the shade. Use a lukewarm washcloth to cool baby. And carry a blanket to protect the baby when you enter air-conditioned extremes.
  • Some medications can cause problems during heat spells, particularly some psychiatric medications and diuretics. Talk with your pharmacist if you have concerns.

Be safe in the water

  • When it gets hot, you may be tempted to jump in the river to cool off. Be careful. Remember, Oregon rivers are cold, even on hot days. Do no dive into rivers or ponds. They may be shallow.
  • Wear a life jacket on the boat and in the river.
  • Do not consume alcohol.
  • Children need close parental supervision in the water, as do some people who have mental or physical disabilities.
  • If you have a home pool, make sure it has a fence around it.

Warning signs and what to do if you experience them

  • Heat illness progresses through three stages: heat cramps, then exhaustion, and then heat stroke. If you experience heat cramps, you will have muscle cramps and feel dizzy. You need to get in the shade and use a cold compress and take fluids.
  • In heat exhaustion, you will sweat profusely, and be pale. You need to get in the shade, and use a cold compress and fluids. IV fluids may be needed.
  • “If you are having a heat stroke, you will be very pale and have a fever. You will not be able to sweat and you will be mentally confused. Your body core temperature has gotten too high. Call 9-1-1!” says Paul Gramenz, MD, an emergency physician and medical director/section chief with Salem Hospital.
  • Heat related illness could cause serious problems. You can reduce your chance of feeling tired or becoming seriously ill with a few simple steps.

Salem Hospital is part of Salem Health, along with West Valley Hospital, Willamette Health Partners and other affiliated health care organizations offering exceptional care to people in and around Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley. Salem Hospital received the Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence™ from Healthgrades in 2014, placing it among the top 5 percent of more than 4,500 hospitals nationwide. “Like” us on; follow us on Twitter: @salemhealth; and view us at

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