HOUSTON (July 6, 2011) – As summer temperatures soar to triple-digit record highs, the medical director of Ben Taub General Hospital’s Emergency Center offers some safety tips to beat the heat and reminds parents about the dangers of leaving children in cars. Staff in one of the state’s busiest emergency centers reports higher than usual cases of patients suffering from heat-related ailments and injuries.
Houston’s combination of high temperatures and high humidity are a dangerous mix for anyone who’s outdoors or living without air conditioning. People at greater risk are children, seniors, the overweight, those with heart disease or high-blood pressure and anyone taking medications affected by extreme heat.
“Unfortunately, all it takes is a careless mistake or a poor lapse in judgment for tragedy to occur,” says Dr. Angela Fisher, medical director, Emergency Center, Ben Taub General Hospital, and associate chief, Operations and Public Affairs, Emergency Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine.
The summer also heightens the dangers of leaving children in cars. Even in shade, car interiors can heat up almost 20 degrees within minutes to dangerous levels. In Houston, that means a car’s interior can climb to more than 120 degrees in no time.
When traveling by car, remember the following:
• Never leave infants, children, seniors or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
• To remind you of a child onboard, place your cell phone, PDA, purse, briefcase, gym bag, lunch bag next to your child’s car seat.
• Another memory tool is to keep a special toy in your child’s empty car seat when the child is not with you. Bring that toy to the front seat with you when the child is in the car seat.
• Set your cell phone to go off at the same time each day to remind you that your baby should have been dropped off at daycare.
• Set your daily calendar to remind you that your child should be at child care. Many tragedies have occurred when parents drive to work instead of stopping at daycare.
• When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook children who have fallen asleep in the car.
Fisher urges anyone who sees a child left unattended in a car to immediately call law enforcement authorities or dial 9-1-1.
“If you see a child left unattended in a car, we want you to err on the side of caution,” she says. “The consequences of not doing something are too grave for you to ignore.”
But children aren’t the only ones susceptible to the dangers of heat.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people exposed to extreme temperatures can fall victim to heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rashes or heat stroke. People in more danger are those working outdoors or in hot environments like firefighters, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler-room workers and factory workers.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
• Heavy sweating
• Extreme weakness or fatigue
• Dizziness, confusion
• Clammy, moist skin
• Pale or flushed complexion
• Muscle cramps
• Slightly elevated body temperature
• Fast and shallow breathing
Tips to avoid heat exhaustion:
• Rest in a cool, shaded or air-conditioned area
• Drink plenty of water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages
• Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath
• Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen
For more information on protecting yourself against the heat, visit CDC's website.