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Stay Cool In Summer Heat

by The Social Diary Safety Educator Columnist Monica Zech
Column #14, June 19th, 2006

Summer has proven to be a very hot one so far. Its time to remind everyone to stay cool and safe.
But often seniors and babies are more susceptible to the effects of heat. For seniors they can be in crisis and not know it, because seniors often don't start sweating until their temperature has already soared. Poor circulation and different medications can also affect the body's ability to cool down.
As a result, in San Diego, the Cool Zone program is starting earlier than usual in the County. Cool Zones are areas around the County that offer seniors a place to avoid succumbing to the summer heat, a place to spend the hottest part of the day. To find a designated Cool Zone near you, contact the AIS Call Center at (800) 510-2020.

Seniors and others suffer physically and financially as a result of the heat and ongoing energy crisis. The costs to keep cool continually exceed the budgets of many older adults on fixed incomes. This is due to the increased use of fans and other coolers.

The County's Aging & Independence Services (AIS) staff has identified air-conditioned sites throughout the County for people to gather on hot days.

These sites not only help seniors avoid heat stroke and other heat-related problems, the older adults can save money by not using their own air conditioners or fans. The community benefits, as well, by decreasing the risk of power blackouts or brownouts caused by so many individuals using energy at the same time.

More than anything, Cool Zones provide an opportunity to educate older adults about the risks of heat and to provide them with tips about keeping cool:

" Schedule outside activities or chores in the early mornings or in the evening.
" Stay in the coolest part of the house - usually on the lowest floor - as much as possible.
" Find a shady spot outdoors that may be cooler than the house, if there's a breeze even better.
" Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.
" Keep a container of cool water nearby and use-wet washcloths to pat the wrists, face and back of neck or, for a quick cool-down. Try wrapping ice cubes in a washcloth.
" Use small battery-operated, hand-held fans and misters for a cooling break.
" Use portable and ceiling fans in frequently used rooms to substitute for the air conditioner.
" Close shades or draperies on sunny windows.
" Eat smaller meals and drink plenty of fluids. Non-caffeine and non-alcoholic beverages help prevent dehydration

Signals of heat emergencies? Heat Exhaustion: Cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness and exhaustion. Heat stroke: Hot, red skin; changes in consciousness. Treatment: Get the person out of the heat and into a cooler place. Heat Stroke is a life threatening situation call 9-1-1.

Another reminder - never leave babies, children, the elderly or pets in your vehicle - not even for a second.

* Monica Zech is the Public Information Officer and Safety Educator for the City of El Cajon and for El Cajon Police and Fire Departments. For safety tips please visit El Cajon Fire.com In community work, Zech is the President on the board for the Trauma Research Education Foundation-TREF and a board member with Communities Against Substance Abuse-CASA. In March, Monica received the County's 2005 Individual Health Champion Award for her safety lectures in the community and throughout the county. Email mzech@ci.el-cajon.ca.us and visit Zech's Web Site ,or Monica Zech at (619) 441-1737.

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