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Keep your cool this weekend

Posted on Jul. 11, 2014 ( comments)
Sprinkler heat wave
City spray parks are a popular way to beat the heat on a fiery summer day.

Let’s be real: Most Puget Sound residents don’t tolerate a lot of sun. With temperatures predicted to soar into the 90s over the weekend and into next week, that’s good reason to be wary.

“Hot temperatures and high humidity will combine to create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are possible,” warns the National Weather Service in an excessive heat advisory, issued today for the greater Seattle area. 

The weather folks and MultiCare Health System doctors agree the first commonsense directive to avoid getting sick is to drink plenty of cold water and stay in a shaded or air-conditioned environment. 

Be aware of most-at-risk
Just as important is to be hyper-vigilant about checking on infants, toddlers and the elderly, who are especially susceptible to heat stroke, a dangerous condition with a high mortality rate.

“Heat stroke is very rare but this is the time that it happens up here, in the middle of summer,” said Ryan Paganelli, MD, medical director at MultiCare Covington Medical Center Emergency Department. “It’s completely avoidable but if it’s missed in someone, it can be deadly.”

Dr. Paganelli said signs and symptoms of heat stroke, when body temperature can exceed 104 degrees, include confusion, delirium and even seizures.

The very young and people aged 70 or older are most likely to experience it because their blood vessels may not dilate well enough to keep their bodies cool.

“Babies and toddlers can’t ask for help and for the elderly, once they’re experiencing it, they’re not necessarily able to alert people about what’s happening,” Dr. Paganelli said. “If you know an elderly person, go check on them and make sure their home isn’t too hot.”

Keep children hydrated
Stephen Reville, MD, pediatric care director at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center, said 90 degrees may not seem hot to people in warmer parts of the country, but it’s easy to be caught off guard by a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest.

“The biggest concern with heat-related injury isn’t about the sun,” Dr. Reville said. “Heat-related injuries really are complications of dehydration.” 

He said drinking water is the obvious best defense. Parents must remember to keep their children properly hydrated.

“A child can be at risk in 20 to 30 minutes if not hydrated; if hydrated, kids can play in the heat for hours,” he said.

And, of course, never leave your child (or pet) in a car, where it can take just 10 minutes to reach deadly temperatures on a hot day.

Watch for signs and symptoms
Common symptoms of dehydration include feeling thirsty, dizzy, fatigued and nauseous. Dark urine or no urine are also signs. 

If a child is experiencing these symptoms, move to the shade, ask the child to lie down and give them cool water to drink. 

If the child has a temperature of more than 103 degrees and doesn’t make sense when she talks, call your provider immediately. At the hospital or urgent care clinic, care teams will treat heat-related injury with fluids and gradually cool the body. 

Where to go
If hot days really bother you, consider heading to the coast, where marine air will bring temperatures down to the 70s this weekend

City spray parks are another option, but Dr. Reville reminds families to drink plenty of liquids even when playing in the water.

“Playing in the water is good but not the same as drinking water,” he said. “You lose fluid faster running around in a field versus swimming in a pool. You still have to drink water.”

Multiple facilities in Pierce County will offer air-conditioned environments to people and pets this weekend. County libraries are especially popular. Visit here for more information.


  • Be extra cognizant of babies, kids and the elderly (and pets, too!)
  • Respect your thirst — cold water is best
  • Stay in a cool environment
  • Avoid excessive exercise
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine intake

Related story
Video: The hidden dangers of kids left alone in hot cars 

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