Earlier this month, all of Washington County experienced power outages along with severely high temperatures. Many groups and people throughout the county worked together to help others during this trying time.
The sheriff's department, local EMA office, volunteer fire departments, Red Cross, worked to set up cooling stations and provide water and ice as it was available. The hospital provided some temporary shelter to those with medical needs. Belpre volunteers manned a cooling station and provided meals to those residents who were without electricity over the very hot weekend before power was restored.
The Washington County Health Department played a small role in providing generators for use by two of the cooling centers established in Grandview and Ludlow townships. There are many more unsung heroes among you who looked out for neighbors and friends and visited the elderly to check on them and bring them ice and water. Many thanks to them all. Hopefully, by now, power has been restored and no new storms are on the horizon.
Unfortunately, the heat wave seems to be continuing as temperatures are again expected to reach the nineties. It is important for all of us to be aware of some of the tips for preventing heat related illness. Drink more fluids such as cool, nonalcoholic beverages. Avoid liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar as these actually can cause you to lose more body fluid. If your doctor has you limiting the amount of liquid you drink, please consult with him or her about how much you should drink.
Stay indoors and if possible, in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air-conditioning, maybe visit a library or another cool place for a few hours. Electric fans may provide some comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illnesses. Also, it helps to wear lightweight, light-colored, loose fitting clothing.
Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, even for a short while. Temperatures in vehicles can rise dramatically in a very short time. Recently, I was shopping at a local supermarket and as I pulled in to park, I noticed a young mother panicking because she had closed the door to her car with keys and her young child locked inside. The incident happened because another shopper, in a hurry to leave the parking lot, had asked her to close her door before getting her child out as she was blocking the other driver from pulling out of the parking space. Fortunately, there were several other shoppers who saw this dilemma and helped her immediately to open the car. Although only a short time had passed, the child was very warm and starting to show signs of listlessness when retrieved from the hot vehicle.
You can also help protect elderly relatives, neighbors, and friends by visiting them frequently and watching for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. You can encourage them to increase their fluid intake by drinking cool, nonalcoholic beverages regardless of their activity level. Again, they should ask their doctor how much they should drink while the weather is hot if they are taking water pills or have limits on fluid intake. During the recent heat wave and power outage, one individual I know, took the opportunity to pick up water and ice when she could get it and traveled to elderly acquaintances to check on them and provide them with extra water and ice for medications. I am sure there are many of you who did the same. You can also help by taking them to air-conditioned locations if they have no transportation.
During the recent power outage, there were also some additional safety tips that everyone should have observed. First, we all are aware that many refrigerated items were lost due to spoilage. Although an inconvenience to many as well as a costly predicament for all, disposing of refrigerated items is a good way to prevent food borne illness. It also is an opportunity to clean out those items that have been sitting in the back of the refrigerator for months and have long outdated. It is always a good practice to spend some time checking expiration dates and throwing out food that has been left for too long a time. Some medications may also require refrigeration and may need to be replaced. Check with your pharmacist and your insurance to find out how to handle these medications and if the insurance you have will cover the loss or replacement.
Keep safe and healthy during these hot summer days and check us out on Facebook for additional tips on summer safety and your health.
Kathleen Meckstroth is Washington County health commissioner and executive director of the Washington County Health Department, 342 Muskingum Drive, Marietta.