By Rachel Christian
June 21 may have been the first official day of summer, but in Florida, hot weather can span much longer than a single season.
With the heat index regularly hitting 100, the Florida Department of Health is advising residents to know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and water borne illnesses.
“We want residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoors and Florida’s waters this summer,” said Kimberly Knight, communications director at the Osceola County Health Department.
“But it’s important to know when to stay safe as well.”
Heat stroke and exhaustion
The health department is offering these tips to guarantee a safe summer.
Stay hydrated – Drink more water than usual. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
Those at high risk for heat-related illness – the very young and very old and people with chronic medical conditions – should stay in an air-conditioned environment. If you don’t have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library.
If you need to work outside, take frequent breaks. Stay cool. Pace yourself while working or exercising in hot weather.
Do not leave children or pets in parked cars, even if the windows are cracked open. Cars can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures.
Protect you skin. Use sunscreen with a SPF 15 or higher.
Cover up with a wide-brimmed hat. Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing.
Leave your pets plenty of water in shady areas.
Check your local news for extreme heat alerts and safety tips.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, extreme weakness or fatigue, dizziness or confusion, nausea, clammy or moist skin, pale or flushed complexion, muscle cramps, slightly elevated body temperature and fast, shallow breathing.
Officials at the Osceola County Health Department are also cautioning residents to swim safely this summer and be mindful of organism living in and around waterways.
Blue green algae is a group of organisms that can live in freshwater, salt water or mixed “brackish” water. These organisms can rapidly multiply when certain conditions are met, such as increased water temperatures and high levels of nutrients in the water.
These blooms can sometimes be pushed near the shore by winds, waves, tides and currents.
Exposure to water containing algae may cause gastrointestinal effects if swallowed and rash if touched or inhaled, Knight said.
Swimming in water with blue green algae blooms may cause ear, eye and skin reactions, hay fever and flu-like symptoms. Algae blooms can also remove oxygen from the water and cause fish kills.
The department advises residents to follow “Swim It, Shore It or Dodge It” guidelines to stay safe.
Swim it with a buddy when safety flags and signs indicate that it is safe to do so.
Shore it on the sand if you have a cut on your skin, have a weakened immune system or you are alone.
Dodge it and avoid organisms that live in or near the water and stay clear of algae blooms.
If you experience illness related to an algae bloom, call the Florida Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.