Throughout the summer months, there are often heat advisories issued by the National Weather Service for much of Massachusetts, including the Bedford area. A heat advisory is issued to raise public awareness when high temperatures and relative humidity cause a high heat index that can affect people if precautions are not taken.
Hot temperatures and high humidity can cause heat illness to occur if you are not careful. Heat-related illness can also happen at any time depending on the person, temperature, and level of activity.
During these summer months, it is important to be on the lookout for alerts from the National Weather Service and to be mindful of ways to prevent heat-related illness and stay safe during any hot weather day.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
During hot weather, you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink (Note: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot). Popsicles, watermelon, cantaloupe, fruit salads, and Jell-o all contain a lot of water, and summertime is the perfect time to indulge in such treats. Avoid caffeine and alcohol whenever possible.
Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen
Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Use a sunscreen product rated at least SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 15 and apply it liberally to all exposed skin at least 30-60 minutes before going out into the sun.
Stay Cool Indoors
Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned area. If your home does not have air conditioning, consider other locations that may have air conditioning. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be difficult to congregate in common areas indoors that you may have visited in the past to keep cool during these hot weather days. It is important to consider other areas that are safe and allow you to socially distance while trying to keep cool. If you will visit public places in order to keep cool, be prepared by taking a face covering and hand sanitizer with you.
The Bedford Health and Human Services Department has a limited supply of desk-top fans available to help residents in need who may not have funds to purchase a fan. Additionally, if transportation is a limitation during this time, the Health and Human Services Department may be able to arrange a ride to locations with air conditioning where you can seek relief. If you or your family is in need during the heat, you may contact our Social Workers for additional information or assistance:
- If you are over 60 years old, contact Danika Castle at the Council on Aging at 781-275-6825
- If you are under 60 years old, contact Chris Bang at the Youth and Family Services Department at 781-275-7727
Vehicles and Areas of Extreme Heat
Vehicles can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, even with a window cracked open. Never leave young children or pets in unattended vehicles under any circumstances. If you have young children, create a routine to check the backseat each time you leave the car as an extra precaution.
Monitor Those at High Risk
- Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others.
- Infants and children up to four years of age are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and rely on others to regulate their environments and provide adequate liquids.
- People 65 years of age or older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to change in temperature.
- People who are overweight may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat.
Additional Tips for Staying Cool
- Use fans to promote air circulation throughout your home. Open doors and use fans to push hot air outdoors. At night, open all doors and windows (with screens) to promote as much air circulation as possible.
- When the sun rises, close all doors, windows, and shades to help keep the cool in for as long as possible.
- Take advantage of the cooling power of water. Fill buckets or basins and soak your feet. Wet towels or bandannas for a cooling effect when worn on the shoulders or head. Take cool showers or baths, and consider using a spray bottle filled with cool water for refreshing spritzes throughout the day.
- Head downstairs. Hot air rises, so the upper stories of a home tend to be warmer than ground floors.
- Eliminate extra sources of heat. Light bulbs and extra appliances can generate unnecessary heat. Cover windows to avoid the heat from the sun from entering the home. Eat fresh foods that do not require the use of the stove or oven.
- Homemade “air conditioning”. Sit in the path of a fan that is aimed at an open cooler or container filled with ice.
- Remember that pets also suffer during high temperatures. Give animals a cool water bath to help keep their body temperature down or wet a towel with cool water and place it on a tile floor for them to lay on or lay the towel on top of them. Always provide access to drinking water for pets. Only let pets outside for short periods of time during the heat.
Heat Illness Questions and Answers
- What are heat cramps? Heat Cramps occur after vigorous activities like running or playing tennis. Their signs are painful abdominal spasms and cramps in major muscles such as the legs and abdomen. Cramps subside with rest, cooling down, and plenty of water.
- What is Heat Exhaustion? Heat Exhaustion has many symptoms-fever, heavy sweating, fainting, rapid pulse, low blood pressure, clammy skin, ashen skin tone, and nausea. Overexertion and not drinking enough water is the usual cause. To treat it, go indoors with a fan or air conditioning or to a shady spot, apply cool cloths, immediately lie down with your legs elevated, loosen tight clothes, and drink cool water or sports beverages.
- What is Heat Stroke? Heat Stroke (Sunstroke) can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical help. The symptoms include not only those associated with heat exhaustion, but also very rapid pulse and breathing, delirium, unconsciousness, and lack of perspiration to cool the body.
Remember these tips to prevent heat illness
- Avoid direct sun from late morning until 4 pm
- Limit vigorous exercise or chores to early morning or late afternoon
- Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothes
- Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluid
- Eat light meals
For more information please contact the Bedford Board of Health at 781-275-6507.
You may also visit the CDC website on extreme heat at https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html.