The Virginia Department of Health reminds residents enjoying time with family and friends this July 4th weekend to be aware of the signs of heat-related illness, particularly in those more vulnerable to extreme temperatures. During the most recent heat wave through July 1st, a total of 206 visits were made to emergency departments or urgent care centers in Virginia as a result of heat-related illnesses. The VDH says signs of severe heat-related illness include high body temperature, a fast pulse, dizziness, nausea, confusion, headache, passing out, and hot, red, dry or damp skin.

Here are additional steps you can take to protect yourself against heat-related illnesses:

  • On extremely hot days, stay indoors in an air-conditioned area or find a cooling center in your area if your home is not cool. Spending at least two hours per day in air conditioning significantly reduces the risk of heat-related illnesses. When temperatures reach the upper 90s or above, a fan may not prevent heat-related illness.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (2-4 glasses of cool fluids) each hour. To replace salt and minerals lost from sweating, drink fruit juice or a sports beverage during exercise or when you have to work outside. However, talk to your doctor first if you are on a fluid-restricted diet or medications, or on a low-salt diet.
  • If you must be outdoors, wear lighter weight and light-colored clothing and wide-brimmed hats to reflect the sun’s rays.  Apply sunscreen to exposed skin to avoid sunburn.  Sunburn limits your body’s ability to keep itself cool and causes loss of body fluids.  Use sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or greater, and apply it at least 20 minutes before going outside.
  • Extreme heat can be stressful on your body.  Limit physical activity until your body adjusts to the heat.
  • Never leave children or pets in cars. Temperatures inside a car can reach higher than 150 degrees quickly, resulting in heat stroke and death.
  • Use the “buddy system” if you are working outside. If you suffer a heat-related illness, you could become confused or could lose consciousness. Therefore, make sure someone else knows of your plans.
  • Be sure to check on the elderly and neighbors without air conditioning.