BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - For many, Memorial Day weekend means being outside. Whether it’s working in the yard, playing or grilling with friends, everyone should take precautions in the heat.
“Being the first really hot weekend, people are not used to it yet, they haven’t been drinking water like they are supposed to. They get out and start working and they get hot and they don’t take those breaks and don’t take that chance to cool off and get something to drink, so you’re liable to have more people having some kind of a heat related illness,” says Homewood Fire Lt. Mark Shannon.
Lt. Shannon says hydrating is key. It’s a rule firefighters adhere to also.
“If you know you are going to be out in the heat, start hydrating the night before,” says Lt. Shannon. “We will start making sure we hydrate the morning we come onto shift. Even though we may not be hot, we may not be thirsty yet, we try to force ourselves to drink water so we can stay hydrated."
Children and the elderly are more susceptible to heat related illnesses, and children don’t know when to stop and take a break.
“Parents really need to watch them even more to make sure they are not getting overheated, that they are still sweating, and are not red faced, they haven’t gone from that heat exhaustion to heat stroke scenario,” says Lt. Shannon.
The Alabama Department of Health warns that heat-related illnesses can be deadly, and to watch for these dangerous signs:
- An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F)
- Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
“Typically, you’ll start to sweat profusely, and then you’ll notice yourself getting faint and possibly getting muscle cramps and then you may quit sweating and that’s when you really need to pay attention because you’re going from that threshold of heat exhaustion and getting into heat stroke and being a more extreme medical emergency,” says Lt. Shannon.
Many people will include alcohol in their holiday plans, but that can be dangerous too.
“A lot of people think hey if I drink alcohol, it’s going to get me hydrated, it has the opposite effect. Drinking alcohol the night before is going to effect you being dehydrated a lot quicker the next morning,” warns Lt. Shannon.
The Centers for Disease Control has more information on recognizing heat exhaustion and stroke, and tips for prevention on their website.