Summer Survival 101: Tips for dealing with excessive heat

How to protect your health in Fresno heat

Summer in the central San Joaquin Valley must be taken seriously. Every year, doctors treat people for heat exhaustion and the more severe heat stroke. One doctor from UCSF-Fresno gives tips about staying healthy in hot weather.
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Summer in the central San Joaquin Valley must be taken seriously. Every year, doctors treat people for heat exhaustion and the more severe heat stroke. One doctor from UCSF-Fresno gives tips about staying healthy in hot weather.

Summertime is a week away, and in the central San Joaquin Valley that means triple-digit temperatures can be the rule rather than the exception.

It’s a time for fun — barbecues, soccer and softball games and backyard swimming — but health officials remind that heat-related injuries are also part of summer in the Valley.

Consecutive days of 100 degrees or higher can stress the body, making people prone to heat-related illnesses. And day-after-day of blistering heat can even be deadly.

Heat stroke, when the body’s ability to cool itself becomes overwhelmed and shuts down, is a 911 medical emergency.

Nine years ago, Fresno County reported 23 heat-related deaths after a 12-day stretch of high temperatures reaching 105 degrees and higher. The coroner declared it the largest “mass fatality event” in the county’s history.

But don’t panic, there are simple actions you can take to work and play safely in the Valley this summer. Try these pointers for staying out of heat trouble, recognizing when you are, and what to do should you become ill from the heat or someone around you does.

Pick up a copy of Saturday’s Bee for a handy one-sheet listing of these tips

Tips for hot days

Wear, light, loose-fitting clothing.

Avoid exercise or heavy activity, if possible.

Take frequent shade breaks

Don’t leave children alone in cars. Temperatures can reach 120 degrees or higher within minutes on hot days.

Drink plenty of fluids.

How much water to drink

If you work outdoors: Drink one to three glasses of water about one to two hours before work.

While working outdoors, drink one glass of water every 15 to 20 minutes.

At the finish of work and back indoors, drink two to three cups of water.

Stutee Khandelwal, internist at UCSF-Fresno

A quick hydration rule: You should urinate four times a day or you’re not drinking enough water.

Any beverage with caffeine including coffee, tea and many popular soft drinks is a diuretic and will make you lose fluids by urinating too often.

Alcohol also is a diuretic.

Blood pressure medications and other prescription medications can be diuretics.

Drinking a lot of water over a long time can dilute electrolytes that the body needs. Replenish with a sports beverage or a beverage that has sodium, potassium and some glucose.

(Note: People with heart conditions and other medical conditions that affect water retention in the body should talk to their doctors about how much liquid they can safely consume.)

Alan Givertz, emergency department director at Saint Agnes Medical Center

If you are using only a swamp cooler or fan in your home:

You may feel cooler as air blows across your wet skin, but you’re sweating to cool yourself. Drink water to prevent dehydration. A good rule: Drink a glass of water every 30 minutes (people with heart and other conditions should check with doctors).

Source: Dr. Jesus Rodriguez, Kaiser-Permanente Fresno family practice

Those most at risk of heat illnesses



People who are obese or have heart disease

Outdoor workers

People exercising outdoors

A heat emergency is more likely

for people drinking alcohol before or during exposure to heat or high humidity

for people who don’t drink enough fluids on hot days

for people taking certain medications, such as beta blockers, water pills or diuretics, some medication to treat depression, psychosis or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

for people with sweat gland problems

for people wearing too much clothing

Types of heat illness

Heat cramps

First stage of heat illness

Symptoms: Muscle cramps and pains, most often in legs or abdomen; fatigue, very heavy sweating, thirst

Heat exhaustion

Symptoms: headache, dizziness and light-headedness, weakness, nausea and vomiting, cool, moist skin, dark urine

Heat stroke

A medical emergency — call 911

Symptoms: Fever (temperature above 104 degrees); irrational behavior; extreme confusion; dry and hot, red skin; rapid, shallow breathing; rapid, weak pulse; seizures, unconsciousness

Medline Plus

If you think a person may have heat illness

Call 911 if the person:

has changes in alertness

has a fever higher than 102 degrees

has other symptoms of heat stroke (rapid pulse or rapid breathing)

does not improve or worsens despite treatment

First aid

Get the person to a cool place to lie down.

Raise the person’s feet about 12 inches.

Apply cool, wet clothes (or cool water directly) to the skin.

Use a fan to lower body temperature.

Place cold compresses on person’s neck, groin, armpits.

If alert, give a beverage to sip (such as a sports drink) or make a salted drink by adding a teaspoon of salt per quart of water.

Give a half a cup of salted water every 15 minutes.

Cool water is OK if salt beverage is not available.

For muscle cramps, give salted beverages and massage affected muscles gently, but firmly until they relax.


Do NOT give medications that are used to treat fever, such as aspirin, acetaminophen.

Do NOT give salt tablets without mixing the salt with water.

Do NOT give the person liquids that contain alcohol or caffeine.

Do NOT use alcohol rubs on the skin.

Do NOT give anything by mouth (not even salted drinks) if unconscious.

Medline Plus

Agricultural animals and pets

Provide shade and water.

Limit exercise to early morning or evening hours on very hot days.

Asphalt and and cement sidewalks get very hot. Hot surfaces can burn a pet’s paws.

Don’t leave pets inside cars (interior temperatures can reach 120 degrees in minutes)

Signs of heatstroke in an animal/pet:

Heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, and unconsciousness.

If heatstroke occurs:

Gradually lower the body temperature of the animal/pet.

Contact your veterinarian immediately.

Move animal/pet to shade or air-conditioned area.

Apply ice packs or cold towels to head, neck and chest or run cool water over them.

Let animal/pet drink small amounts of cold water or lick ice cubes.

Get animal to a veterinarian.

Safety tips are not a substitute for veterinary care. If a heat-related illness occurs, contact your veterinarian immediately.

For more information about summer heat safety for animals, visit the Humane Society website at www.hsus.org.

Tulare County Health and Services Agency

Barbara Anderson: (559) 441-6310, @beehealthwriter