Heat-related illnesses: Know the signs and treatments

By Nathan Fligeman

Excessive heat is the most dangerous type of prolonged weather condition that the U.S. faces each year, commonly throughout the summer season. Forecasts for these intense periods of heat are often given via the public-accessible provision of outlooks (3-7 days prior to the projected heat wave), watches (24-72 hours prior), and warnings/advisories (less than 12 hours prior). It is critical to keep on the lookout for these alerts; a majority of news and radio stations cover the latest updates on the weather forecast at several times throughout the day.

Being unprepared for high temperatures and the radiating sun can lead to harmful consequences, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Heat cramps normally involve the painful spasming of muscles in your legs and abdominal region, although can expand to impact the rest of your body, as well. Excessive sweating is also common as an accompanying symptom to the aforementioned spasms. Heat cramps are often the initial sign of potential heat-related illness. In order to alleviate these cramps, pressure, in the form of a light massage, should be applied to the aching area. If the suffering person is not experiencing nausea, water should be consumed at small increments, as well. If the cramps persist for over an hour, or are extremely painful at any point, professional medical attention should be sought.

Heat exhaustion is the ‘next level,’ in terms of severity, of heat-centric malady, following heat cramps. Symptoms often include, but are not limited to, heavy sweating, feelings of weakness and imbalance, a weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, fainting, and/or headache. In order to alleviate such symptoms, the person should immediately be moved to a cold(er) setting, such as a room with air-conditioning or an ice bath. Water should also be provided, if the person is capable of intaking liquid without symptoms of nausea or vomiting. It is normally advised that if vomiting occurs, and/or the person does not begin to feel better within an hour, medical assistance should be called for. Similar to heat cramps, if the symptoms are extreme, professional assistance should be requested immediately.

Heat stroke is the most serious level of heat-related illness, and warrants an immediate 911 emergency call/a visit to the closest hospital. Heat stroke combines the painful symptoms of heat cramps and heat exhaustion with a body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, red skin, a rapid pulse, and possible loss of consciousness. Sufferers should immediately be transferred to a cooler environment, and should not be provided with any liquids. People around the sufferer should pay constant and very close attention to the sufferer’s condition as they await the arrival of medical personnel.

In order to avoid the often agonizing and uncomfortable symptoms which are attached to each of these ailments, summer activities should always be accompanied by higher levels of water intake. Exposure to direct sunlight should be limited from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., primarily. Protective clothing and applications are also commonly recommended to combat the effects of UV rays.

Visit our website for American Red Cross heat safety information. You can also download the free Red Cross First Aid App to learn how to treat a wide variety of illnesses and injuries.

Keep your furry (and not so furry) friends safe this winter

By Divya Kumar

Winter is a great season to recharge with your furry friends by your side. Whether you have a dog, cat, rabbit, horse, scaly friend or another type of animal, it’s important to remember a few things to ensure they are cozy, safe, and warm alongside you when the weather gets cold!

Tip #1: Before even getting in your car, much less starting it, be sure to look under your vehicle for a little one potentially hiding out seeking warmth. Also, be sure to either knock on your hood a couple times or quickly pop it open to see if there’s a little ball of fluff cozied up next to your engine. (It does happen!) If you do find an animal, call animal control or, if you feel comfortable handling it, take it to the nearest shelter.

Tip #2: If its super cold out for you, then its super cold out for your pet! Never leave your pet out in the cold, no matter what. For many of us pet owners, our pets are family. Treat your pet with the same dignity you treat your most vulnerable family member.

Tip #3: If you need to walk your dog, be mindful of the hard salt crystals that are distributed on sidewalks and roads before a storm. Your dog’s paw pads are sensitive! Before going out, rub some salve on your dog’s paw. There are a few brands you can find by googling “paw pad salve.” If your dog needs extra TLC on his or her paws, acclimate them to wearing booties. They may not like it at first, but that’s why you’re the one taking care of your pet—to do what’s best for them!

Tip #4: Cats and dogs love a warm spot to snuggle, so make sure there are some cozy spots inside where they can snuggle when it gets extra cold outside. My cats like the thermo kitty sill—you can get it from most online retailers.

Tip #5: It can be tempting to blast the heater on extra hot when it dips below freezing, but be mindful that you’re not creating a sauna. Cats and dogs have a higher body temperature than humans, and they can overheat quickly.

Tip #6: If you’re going out overnight and leaving your animals behind, check the weather forecast for storms. A snowstorm could lead to a power outage, and if you use an automatic food dispenser that needs to be plugged in, your pets will go hungry! Get someone to cover for you, ideally, or use a battery-operated dispenser.

Tip #7: Have fun! Wintertime can be magical for the pets you can take outside. Some dogs love the snow, others not so much. Always respect your pet’s needs, likes and dislikes. If your dog does not like the snow, and you love it, maybe check out your local shelter and ask to walk a dog who loves the snow! The SPCA near me lets us take certain dogs to the park. A fun option to spend some time with a shelter dog who loves the snow as much as you. Your own dog won’t be jealous and will be thankful he or she can stay cozy inside.

Have a happy, healthy & safe Thanksgiving

By Divya Kumar

With Thanksgiving right around the corner and COVID-19 vaccinations increasing in our region, I know many of us are looking forward to finally meeting friends and family we haven’t seen in a while. And while it may be tempting to go all out with food and festivities, it’s important to keep some safety tips on our minds so that our fun is not dampened with unhealthy consequences.

One: Drive safely. Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday for traveling by car. Here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • Never get in a car intoxicated. That one hour you think you are saving by just hoping in could turn into a deadly or expensive car accident. It’s not worth it. Your loved ones will understand! After all, they want you alive and happy.
  • Always wear a seatbelt. If you are curious, google “car crash survivors and seatbelts” and look at the images section; you will see some striking images of people who survived car accidents thanks to their seatbelts.
  • If you are making a long drive and it’s been a while since you got your car checked out – especially if your car is making some weird noises – try to squeeze in a quick trip to your local auto shop. Go local if possible! You’ll be supporting small business owners and will have peace of mind.
  • Be sure to fill up that tank. The weather is getting colder, and if you’re stuck in traffic, you’ll be happy you have some extra gas for the heating.
  • Don’t forget toll money if you use cash, or check your EZpass account to  make sure you have enough so you don’t get surprises later.
  • If you are flying instead of driving, pack your mask, hand sanitizer and some cough drops. People often get a sniffle or a cough around this time of the year and you don’t want to make other passengers uncomfortable.
  • Whether you are driving or flying, check the weather before heading out. If you are flying to or from your destination, think about what you might do if there’s a storm and you get stranded at an airport and have to spend the night at a hotel.

Two: Be mindful of what you eat. It’s easy to go overboard for Thanksgiving dinner and wake up stuffed or sick. We only have one body, and if you haven’t gotten your blood work done in a year, or if you know you are prone to sugar or cholesterol problems, take an extra second before deciding if it’s worth it to have that third serving of turkey or that second serving of pie..

Three: Choose kindness. It’s not always fun and games when seeing family. Sometimes the people closest to us have difficulty accepting us as we are. Choose kindness and mindfulness and your heart will be closer to peace than if you choose to engage in a battle of words. All you can do is be yourself and spread your own version of love, kindness and peace. Sometimes, it’s better to change the topic and find talking points that are positive for both of you.

Four: Be mindful of fires. As we mention in our Holiday Safety Tips guide, “Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and Thanksgiving is the peak day for these tragedies to occur.” NEVER turn on the pan on high and pour in too much oil. If this unfortunate thing happens and there is an oil fire, NEVER put it out under the tap. Whatever kind of fire you get on the stove, grab a metal lid or a cookie sheet and slam it on the pan until the pan cools. (And turn off the heat, of course.) For a small fire, you can pour salt or baking soda over it.  As a last resort, use a Class B dry chemical fire extinguisher. If the fire won’t go out, get out, tell your family and friends to get out and call 911.

Five: Enjoy the small moments with your loved ones. If there is a small child in your midst, have a dialogue and teach them something. Small moments add up to lots of love.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Stay cool: Red Cross tips for heat wave safety

By Alana Mauger

It’s another hot one. According to the National Weather Service, our first summer heat wave is upon us and will continue at least through mid-week, with highs above 90 degrees, increasing humidity and heat index values nearing 100.

While many of us will take advantage of the summer rays to get in some pool and beach time, the American Red Cross wants you to be aware of the dangers excessive heat can bring. In fact, in recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events.

First, it’s important to listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes.  Let’s start with some definitions.

  • A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally 10 degrees or more above average and often combined with excessive humidity.
  • Heat index is the way the temperature feels to the human body (air temperature + humidity).
  • An excessive heat watch means conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24-72 hours.
  • During a heat advisory, heat index values are forecast to reach daytime highs of 100-105 degrees for at least 2 days (105-110 degrees during an excessive heat warning.)

Next, get prepared.

  • Discuss heat safety precautions with your family and have a plan for wherever you spend time. If you don’t have air conditioning, identify places you can go for relief during the warmest parts of the day.
  • Check the contents of your emergency disaster kit in case a power outage occurs.
  • Identify and check in with people in your neighborhood who are elderly, young, sick or overweight, as they are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need help.
  • Ensure that you animals have enough fresh water and shade.
  • Get trained in First Aid and download the Red Cross First Aid App to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.
  • Download the Red Cross Heat Wave Safety Checklist.

Finally, stay safe.

  • Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, even if you’re not thirsty, and avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  • Eat small meals and eat more often.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  • If you must work outdoors, take frequent breaks and use the buddy system.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Check on your animals frequently.

Be Red Cross Ready and learn how to prepare for emergencies at https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies.html

Eight Simple Tips to Surviving this Halloween

Submitted in part by Carnelita Slaughter, Red Cross Volunteer

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Whether you are playing chaperone or getting together with friends, like me, you have probably been planning our Halloween festivities for weeks. Now it’s crunch time! Your frightful crew is gathering and your decorations are sending chills up the neighbors’ spines (you’ve done well). But you may be forgetting something…….. the greatest hazards of Halloween aren’t the spirits trying to communicate through your Ouija board or the creatures you’ll encounter throughout the night. No! There are other dangers that come with wandering around in the dark in busy neighborhood with uneven street lighting and small children. Good thing you have the Red Cross to guide you. We can’t promise you won’t suffer a tummy ache or sore feet but stick with us and you’ll celebrate many Spooktacular evenings to come!

 

  1. Look for flame resistant costumes.

Homer's burning Halloween

2. Try to stick with make-up instead of masks to make sure trick-or-treaters can see clearly as they walk the neighborhood.

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3. Plan your Trick-or-Treat route in advance.
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A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children as they make their way around the neighborhood.

4. Make it easy to be seen in the dark.
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Make sure trick-or-treaters have flashlights. Put reflective tape on dark colored costumes, or try to stick with light colored costumes.

5. Only visit homes that have the porch light on.

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Accept treats at the door but never go inside.

 

6. Only walk on sidewalks.
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If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic. Look both ways before crossing the street and cross only at the corner. Don’t cut across yards or use alleys. And don’t cross between parked cars

7. Be cautious around pets and other animals.
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8. Use glow sticks or LEDs inside jack-o-lanterns instead of candles.

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For more tips and information click here, and be sure to download our Red Cross First Aid App at redcross.org/apps.

The Red Cross: a Volunteer Perspective

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Although I’ve only been interning with the Red Cross Communications team for several weeks, I have already gained an entirely new perspective on both this community and providing assistance to those in need. The future of the Red Cross is dependent on volunteers who recognize the importance of this organization and then donate their efforts towards fulfilling its mission.

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During my time at the Red Cross, I have had the opportunity to assist outside of the office. One day, I hope to be part of the Disaster Action team and respond to local disasters. So far, the closest that I have come to disaster response is participating in Red Cross Fire Safety Walkthroughs. During Fire Safety Walkthroughs, Red Cross workers distribute fire safety materials, such as educational materials as well as a 9-volt battery for smoke detectors. The educational material comes in multiple languages and provides individuals with information on how to prevent a fire, making an escape plan and pet fire safety.  In the past several weeks, I’ve participated in Fire Safety Walkthroughs in the two communities surrounding the fatal fires at Gesner Street and North Sixth Street. When fire suddenly destroys homes and claims the lives of community members, the scene is always very sensitive.  It has been difficult to see the tremendous toll these disasters have on communities. As we made our way up and down the streets, I did my best to be respectful to people’s properties, especially the homes where the fires occurred.

Gesner St Fire picture of Laurel

When I am in the office, I work with both internal and external means of communication to keep the general public as well as Red Cross employees and volunteers informed about what is going on in the community and the office. I really value working beside and learning from my manager, Sara, and the rest of the Communications department. Our many responsibilities have so much purpose, which causes me to constantly look forward to my time here. This branch of the Red Cross employs many friendly and intelligent people. I’ve received nothing but a warm welcome to this team. The Red Cross never stops responding, so as long as I’m here I’m sure I will be kept busy by providing the community with the information they need to stay informed and safe.

~submitted by Laurel, a high school intern for the communications department

If you are interested in volunteering with the American Red Cross, click here.

Check Out Our New Flood App

 

I don’t know if our Red Cross friends have noticed, but this part of the world is damp. Sometimes, it’s too damp. Southeastern Pennsylvania experiences several torrential rainfall events a year, and while this makes our local flora lush and green, we also live with the threat of flooding, especially in low-lying areas.

The Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania is committed to helping people in our area be prepared for disasters all kinds. Recently, we have been developing applications for iPad, iPhone and Android to help people act safely and responsibly in the event of an emergency. Our newest app, provided in both English and Spanish, deals with the most common disaster in the United States: flooding.

Floods are extremely dangerous because they occur quickly and with little warning. A road can become impassible in a matter of seconds. A house can be submerged in the same amount of time. The flood app will have location based NOAA flood and flash flood warnings to let users know when they are in danger and should evacuate. It will offer one touch “I’m safe” messaging to family and friends, as well as inform users of critical steps to take in order to stay safe. The app provides the locations of Red Cross shelters, resources for recovery and opportunities to learn more about helping friends and neighbors when the water get too high. These include interactive quizzes and badges you can earn and share on social networks. It even provides a flashlight, strobe light and alarm to make others aware of your location

Everyone who lives in Southeastern Pennsylvania should download this app. When the unexpected occurs, we are filled with questions. What should we do? Where should we go? What should we remember to bring? What dangers should we worry about and anticipate? The Red Cross is doing a tremendous service by making the answers to these questions as accessible as a smart phone. The flood app will save lives, it will provide essential information in real time and it will assist people to recover when the waters recede.

Here’s wharco_blog_img_FloodAppt the National Office of the Red Cross has to say:

The Flood App is the latest in a series of Red Cross emergency preparedness apps that put lifesaving information right in the hands of people whenever and wherever they need it. These apps allow people to make critical, lifesaving decisions.

All Red Cross apps can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps.

Apps are not a substitute for training. Go to redcross.org/takeaclass to take a First Aid and CPR class so you’ll know what to do in case emergency help is delayed.

Thunder and Lightning can be Frightening – Be Safe this July 4th!

The 4th of July is only a day away! Who doesn’t love this holiday? We celebrate the founding of our nation, we get together with friends and family, we grill delicious food and, if we are really lucky, we get to see an awesome fireworks display.
Sadly, this summer of 2013, the weather is not cooperating. For the last week, we have been experiencing intermittent heavy rain along with lightening and thunderstorms. This weather pattern is supposed to continue throughout this week as well. Although the pattern may clear at the end of the week, some of us could be spending the Fourth dodging thunderstorms. Therefore, it is very important to know some basic outdoor weather safety tips when it comes to thunder and lightning. Despite the weather, the American Red Cross wants everyone to have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
The safest place to be during a lightening storm is inside an enclosed building. If you can’t get to shelter, below are tips to keep your safe.
1. Avoid small shelters and pavilions in open areas that may attract lighting strikes
2. Do not try to hide under trees, but if trees are you only shelter choose the smallest tree possible.
3. Avoid bodies of water such as swimming pools, lakes, ponds, rivers, and oceans
4. Avoid being on high ground, and near tall objects or metal objects such as fences, wires, bikes, construction equipment and wires.
5. Distance yourself at least 15 feet away from other people in the area to prevent lightening bolts from jumping from one person to another.
6. If you are in the immediate area of lightening, crouch down with feet together and head down to prevent the possible attraction to lightning strikes.
7. When driving, if possible, pull off the road to avoid being blinded or startled by the lightening. Do not get out of your vehicle and make sure all windows are rolled up.
If someone is struck by lightening they usually lose consciousness. After a person has been struck, no electrical charge will remain in their body, and they can safely be handled without shocking others. Intense electrical shock can stop a person’s heart, and proper CPR can be critical until emergency helps arrive.
Basically, it’s important to use common sense. Check local media for weather reports and be informed. If the weather looks frightful, move your celebration inside or, at least, near to a sturdy shelter. Stay safe and Happy Fourth of July from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross.

~posted by communications volunteer, Sarah Peterson

New ERV Prototype Visits Philadelphia

1Hey, people of our Philadelphia region! Did you know that the current fleet of American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles is undergoing a redesign process?

This week, the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) will play host to the newly designed prototype of our Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). The new prototype will stop in Philadelphia as part of its journey to Red Cross Chapters all over the country. The idea is to allow chapter employees and volunteers to provide feedback on its design and make any recommendations for changes once they have used the vehicle in the field.

American Red Cross ERVs have become an iconic symbol of our disaster relief services. In 1898, Clara Barton used a wagon as an ambulance for her work on the battlefield. Later, the organization used club mobiles to serve WWII soldiers. Before standardization began in the 1980s, the Red Cross used converted bread trucks, station wagons and pickup trucks painted with our iconic logo to deliver meals and other essentials after disasters. The current “ambulance design” was first used to support people affected by tornados in Western Pennsylvania.

Wise readers familiar with the current design know that it resembles a large box on wheels and is slightly unwhieldy to drive. The new model will lighten up, resembling the more agile service vehicles sometimes seen in densely packed European cities. Still, the key to it all will be whether these vehicles help our trained responders meet the needs of our clients in a timely and humane way. The national fleet of 320 ERVs is now more than 10 years old and is challenging to maintain. Once the new design is chosen, the Red Cross plans to completely replace and expand the existing fleet over the next ten years.

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As always, the Red Cross will make changes with an eye toward efficiency and the bottom line. The new ERV’s will be less expensive to purchase and maintain. According to my colleague, Sara Smith, who rode in one this morning, the new design emphasizes comfort, fuel efficiency, storage and connectivity. They provide enough space for our trained responders to meet with clients inside the van, away from the scene of the disaster. I know our volunteers will appreciate the opportunity to take clients away from water or smoke and shelter them immediately.  The ERVs will also include an external dynamic messaging system, allowing responders to share real time information with others.

SEPA is excited to take part in this testing process. We will be seeking to discover if the new ERV’s features — such as a loading/unloading system, enhanced technology and a back-up camera – meet the needs of people who turn to our chapter for help after disasters.  This new model may not be “the one”  but it’s really great get the chance to take it for a spin.

–       Submitted by Sarah Peterson (Communications Volunteer)

 

Tips from a Texan

Howdy!

As the temperature (slowly) rises I’m reminded of my home state of Texas. Now Texans are no strangers to heat advisories, warnings and their ilk. Our summer temperatures usually stay between 90-105 degrees. Heat related hospitalizations and even deaths are a sad yet common occurrence there.

The excessive heat advisory issued this week has been a top news piece recently but all of this hubbub seems a bit over the top. I’ve been assured by many Philadelphians that it does get very hot and humid here but I still have my doubts. This is probably the first summer I’ve been able to wear a light sweater outside!

I play Ultimate regularly so I do spend quite a bit of time outside and it’s definitely a muggy heat but nothing like the scorchers we have in Texas. I’m from the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) region so our climate tends to be bone-dry, like walking into an oven (as opposed to a steam room.) Last year’s summer saw the worst drought in recent years. It got so bad in places that critters would get stuck where the ground had cracked.

So as a survivor of many a Texas summer here are some of my personal tips to help keep you cool and sunburn free this summer.

  1. One thing that commuters tend to forget is that your left arm is exposed to the sun for however many minutes (or hours) you’re stuck in traffic. Cover up! My mom keeps a long sleeve button down in the car and throws that over her left arm when she drives for long periods of time.
  1. Umbrellas are great for rain but they also provide portable shade! Yes you may get funny looks but it beats melting in the sun!
  1. Personal water misting fan. Carry everywhere. (The link is not an endorsement to buy that specific product. Just an example!)
  1. Sunglasses and lip balm with UV protection are essential. It’s definitely possible to get sunburn on your eyes and lips. I’ve done it. It hurts. Learn from my mistakes.
  1. Speaking of sun protection, you can never say enough about sunscreen. Apply a thick coating and wait for your skin to absorb it before heading out the door. Some limbs that get commonly forgotten: the ears, the back of the neck and the tops of your feet (if you like to wear flip flops but don’t like the flip flop tan line!) Ladies, there are a lot of makeup options that have sunscreen too so no excuses! And reapply often.
  1. Cowboy hats are not just a bold fashion statement but a very practical way to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your neck!
  1. Keep your clothes in the fridge. Sounds weird but it feels really nice to slip into cold pajamas after a long hot day!
  1. Most people tend to eat cool things in the summer like salads and ice cream but eating spicy food actually helps cool you down. You sweat more when eating spicy food which helps to cool your body. Add a fan and you’re in business!
  1. If you do a lot of outdoor activities plan ahead and throw water bottles in the freezer. Take them out when you’re ready to head out and you should have ice cold melted water when you need it!
  1. If after all of these tips you still manage to get sunburned do not take a hot shower! Use lukewarm water (or cold water if you can stand it) pat your skin dry and use burn relief gel. The aloe variety is my favorite. It’s especially nice when you get some cool air on the burn.

Hope y’all find these tips useful! Have a safe and happy summer!