DCHHS Urges Residents to Take Precaution During the Heat

Filed under: Community |

DALLAS – Extreme heat conditions in North Texas can be dangerous for the elderly, the very young and those with chronic medical conditions. Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) is urging Dallas County residents to take precaution during the heat.

sunDCHHS conducts syndromic surveillance with hospital emergency rooms and the county medical examiner to monitor and track cases of heat-related illness and death in Dallas County. In 2013, there were three heat-related deaths and 348 illnesses reported in Dallas County. There were no deaths in 2014, but 236 individuals experienced heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. To date, one pediatric heat-related death has been confirmed in Dallas County and 82 individuals have been ill due to heat.

“Many of our citizens don’t have air-conditioning in their homes, it’s not working or they don’t use it because they are concerned about the cost,” said DCHHS Director Zachary Thompson. “Either way, they are left in a potentially life-threatening situation.”

Some older citizens are not as mobile which makes them less likely to move to air-conditioned environments, Thompson added. However, DCHHS is participating in a unique partnership that provides air conditioners to citizens who qualify.

“Organizations and individuals are encouraged to make donations so we can purchase and install air conditioners for residents in need,” Thompson said.

To donate to the Emergency Relief Heat Fund, visit dallasfoundation.org and follow the “Donate to a Fund” link at the top right corner.

“Heat deaths are preventable,” said Dr. Christopher Perkins, DCHHS medical director/health authority. “There are actions you can take to decrease your risk of heat-related problems, such as staying in a cool place, decreasing physical activity and staying well-hydrated.”

Health officials ask citizens to follow simple precautions to stay safe in the heat:

  • Know the first signs of heat-related illness – dizziness, nausea, headaches and muscle cramps. At the first sign, move to a cooler place, rest for a few minutes and slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY if symptoms do not improve.
  • NEVER leave a child or pet in a closed, parked car.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid drinks containing alcohol, caffeine or sugar.
  • Dress for the heat by wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool baths and showers frequently.
  • Exercise during evening and early morning hours when temperatures are lower.
  • If you have pre-existing medical conditions, avoid strenuous and prolonged outdoor activities.
  • If you do not have cooled air or air-conditioning in your home, you should go to a mall, library and other places with air-conditioning.
  • Encourage children and the elderly to stay in the shade.
  • Check frequently on ill or elderly friends, relatives and neighbors.
  • Listen to the news for heat alerts and public health messages.
  • Adjust to the environment. A sudden change in temperature due to an early heat wave or travel to a hotter climate is stressful to the body. Limit your physical activity until you become accustomed to the heat.
  • Check with a doctor about the effects of sun and heat when taking prescription drugs, especially diuretics or antihistamines.

For more information on heat precautions, visit http://www.dallascounty.org/department/hhs/heatillness.html.