Medical professionals stress staying cool in the first place, with some tips, advice and warning signs to watch out for amid 100-plus degree weather

With the Willamette Valley wilting amid a heat wave that began pushing temperatures over 100 degrees beginning Tuesday, hydration may be the biggest buzz word around.

Because dehydration can be a significant contributor to heat-related illnesses, drinking plenty of water is crucial as a preventative measure, but it's only part of the equation, according to Gilian Rosicky, a family nurse practitioner at Providence Bridgeport Health Center. PMG FILE PHOTO - Youngsters and adults alike should take advantage of opportunities to cool down their bodies during the heat wave, medical professionals say.

Hydration on its own can't fully combat overheating, which is why Rosicky says keeping the body cool in the first place is a major component of any strategy to beat the heat. The main reason is that it's simply more difficult to cool the body once it's become overheated.

"Literally staying out of the sun, staying in shady areas and staying indoors, as long as there is air conditioning, keeping air flow good in terms of what you're wearing, like loose fitting clothing, to prevent overheating in the first place is really the focus," she said.

Lucky for those already focused on hydration is that water plays a key role in most of the things that people do or use to stay cool, which is to say using it to cool the skin.

Many of the tried and true summer activities are based on this principal, from swimming and playing in water (like at the splash pad at Rotary Centennial Park adjacent to the Chehalem Cultural Center), to taking a cold shower.

"It's one of the big things that guards us against infections and things, but it also helps regulate our temperature," Rosicky said of the skin. "So by cooling the skin in a broad way you can release heat very quickly over the surface area of the body."

Cooling towels, which feature fabrics that promote rapid evaporation to provide a continuous cooling effect, have been a popular product on the market in recent years. Rosicky noted that hospitals use something similar to treat someone suffering acute heatstroke, but says that most tricks and home remedies built on the principal can be effective.

"I don't think you need a specialty towel," Rosicky said. "Even just misting the skin with cool water is a huge help and having that surface area exposed. That's why that loose-fitting clothing and then spraying exposed skin can really cool you down quickly. That's what the athletes do. They're constantly covering themselves with water on those hot days."

Staying in a cool place

Keeping your home cool or getting to somewhere that has air conditioning, even just for a short respite, is also a helpful strategy.

For those without air conditioning, keeping interior spaces as dark as possible can significantly lower the temperature (some reports claim as much as 20 degrees), so thoroughly covering windows is a good strategy. Blackout drapes, which should be of light color to avoid absorption of heat, are especially effective.

It's also advisable to avoid cooking with the oven or stove when trying to keep your home cool and closing off rooms and spaces, especially if they are especially hot or cool, can also help.

For those without immediate access to a cool space, getting out to public places like movie theaters and malls is a good option. A number of community groups and organizations in Newberg have stepped up to serve as free "cooling stations" for those who need to get out of the heat.

Here are cooling stations set by press time at 2 p.m. Wednesday:

Chehalem Cultural Center — 415 E. Sheridan St. Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Saturday.

Chehalem Senior Center — 101 W. Foothills Drive. Regular hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The center has also extended its hours from 4 to 8 p.m. this week to serve solely as a cooling station. ?

Joyful Servant Lutheran Church — 1716 Villa Rd. Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

Newberg Christian Church — 2315 Villa Road. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday (lobby open); 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (lobby open) and 5 to 6:30 p.m. (free Community Kitchen dinner followed by Thursday night worship service).

Newberg Public Library — 503 E. Hancock St. Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; noon to 5 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

St. Michael Church/Iglesia San Miguel — 110 S. Everest Road. Hours: noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

Youth Outreach — 719 E. First St. Hours: noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday (open to middle/high school youth).

2nd Street Community Church — 504 E. First St. Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Northside Community Church — 1800 N. Hoskins St. Hours: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

River Street Church of God — 715 S. River St. Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Thursday. 

Edwards Elementary School — ?714 E. Sixth St. Hours: the school district's summer meal program, which provides free meals to children 18-years old and younger (or $1 for adults) runs from 11 a.m. to Noon Monday through Friday. 

Warning signs

Knowing what symptoms to watch out for can go a long way toward preventing heat stroke and Rosicky said symptoms like dizziness, rapid heart rate, cramps, weakness of the limbs, mental confusion are symptoms adults should watch out for, while it can be more subtle for children, like irritability or unusually dry skin.

"Heat exhaustion is basically some of those early-phase symptoms whereas heatstroke you start to have metabolic shut down of the kidneys and the heart is under a lot of stress," she said. "So heat stroke is very dangerous and something we manage in the hospital. Heat exhaustion are some of those early symptoms that we can often manage at home or in a clinic."

Symptoms of heat stroke include throbbing headaches; a lack of sweating; body temperature above 103 degrees; red, hot or dry skin; vomiting and loss of consciousness, in which case 9-1-1 should be called and immediate action taken to cool the person until help arrives.

At-risk groups

Rosicky said several populations need to be especially cautious and proactive during heat waves, especially the elderly and young children.

"For the little ones, since they have this high surface area on their body, they pick up the heat so much faster than adults," Rosicky said. "And they don't tend to be mobile and adjust their bodies into different places or positions to cool down. So if they're strapped in a car seat or in a warm room, they're not going to be able to move as quickly, so they have to be watched closely."

Rosicky said older adults are more prone to dehydration, both in general and due to certain medications, like those addressing blood pressure, so they are advised to be vigilant about their water intake. Although parents may not realize it, Rosicky said youth and young adults on ADHD medications can have similar problems and should be monitored closely.

She also said teenagers and active adults, who are more likely to be out in the sun because they want to exercise, should also take precautions.

"So they really have to watch their activity, do it early in the day, get adequate hydration before and then recovery after," she said. "Maybe shortening their activity and decreasing the strenuousness of their exercise, if at all possible, are options."


Modifications and cancellations

Many organizations, especially recreational and sports groups, have procedures in place to modify their activities or cancel them all together.

Rosicky serves on the board of her children's soccer club and reports that when temperatures reach 95 degrees, practices are shortened.

"At 100 degrees they change the time completely and over-100-degree days they don't practice at all," Rosicky said. "For games, it's not unusual that we'll do extra water breaks, we call them cooling breaks, and I think other sports do the same in this kind of weather, but they are definitely modifications made."

Several local organizations have already taken action, including the Newberg Farmers Market, which will not open today.

The Chehalem Park and Recreation District has cancelled all sports practices this week, but will continue its baseline concussion testing for youth as scheduled.

CPRD has also altered operations at its youth Camp CARE, cancelling a planned park trip Wednesday, moving afternoon activities indoors and asking parents to send a bottle of water with their children for the rest of the week. Its group at Edwards Elementary School has also arranged for children to play water games in the morning beginning Wednesday. 

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