As Louisiana continues to experience heat advisories, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is offering tips and strategies to help residents protect themselves and others during heat conditions extreme.

Louisiana currently averages 35 days a year when the heat exceeds dangerous levels. By 2050, the state is expected to reach an average of nearly 115 days of danger per year. Exposure to extreme heat (greater than or equal to 95 degrees) can lead to heat stress leading to heat-related illnesses. Heat stress and heat-related illnesses occur when our bodies are unable to cool themselves enough to maintain a healthy temperature.

Each year in Louisiana, an average worker dies and hundreds more become ill while working in hot or humid conditions. Exposure to outdoor and indoor heat can be dangerous or even fatal. New and returning workers must adjust to the job to develop their heat tolerance. Nearly 3 in 4 heat-related deaths in the United States occur during the first week on the job. Water, rest and shade are essential. Workers should drink at least one cup of cool water every 20 minutes and take frequent breaks in the shade or in a cool place with enough time to recover from the heat considering the temperature, humidity and other conditions.

Residents at higher risk:

  • People with heart and/or lung disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity
  • Pregnant women
  • The elderly
  • Athletes
  • young children
  • Outside workers

Symptoms of heat-related illnesses:

Heat illness occurs along a spectrum. Recognizing the signs is important for prevention.

  • Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include muscle pain or spasms; cold, pale clammy skin; fatigue or weakness and dizziness; and headaches and fainting.
  • Symptoms of heat stroke can include high body temperature; hot, red, dry or moist skin; rapid and strong pulse; headaches and dizziness; nausea and confusion; and loss of consciousness.
  • If you experience these symptoms, move to a cool place and loosen your clothes, put a cool, damp cloth over your body, or take a cool bath and drink water. You should see a doctor for heat exhaustion if you are vomiting and/or your symptoms last for more than an hour.
  • If you think you have heat stroke, call 911 immediately, move the person to a cooler place, and help lower their body temperature. and do not give the person anything to drink, as most people with heat stroke have an altered level of consciousness and cannot drink safely without choking.

Ways to stay safe:

  • Air conditioning is the best protection against heat-related illnesses. Exposure to air conditioning, even a few hours a day, will reduce the risk of health-related diseases.
  • Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink plenty of fluids. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks.
  • Stay in the shade.
  • Limit outdoor activities to the morning and evening hours.
  • Check people who live alone, especially the elderly.
  • Resources on heat illness prevention and other tips are available on the OSHA website at www.osha.gov/heat
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