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July 16, 2008 > Washington Hospital Opens Cooling Center During Recent Heat Wave

Washington Hospital Opens Cooling Center During Recent Heat Wave

Hot temperatures and smoke from wildfires across Northern California have made this a summer to remember. Unfortunately, when temperatures reach in excess of 100 degrees and high ozone levels from smoke and smog affect air quality, many people may need to stay indoors until the weather passes.

In response to the extremely high temperatures in the local area, Washington Hospital recently opened an air-conditioned cooling center where seniors and other residents could seek some relief in a cool and relaxing environment.

"The Hospital will continue to open the cooling center when the temperatures become unseasonably high," says Tina Nunez, chief of ambulatory care services at Washington Hospital. "Our doors are always open for those people that want to seek refuge from the excessive heat."

The cooling center, located in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) is adjacent to the main hospital (see map below). Call Washington Hospital's Community Relations department at (510) 791-3417 to receive updated information on days the center will be open. Cool refreshments including water and lemonade are free and the cooling center also offers a variety of magazines, newspapers, board games and a television for people to enjoy.

"We know that hot weather can also affect animals so we're also allowing people to bring their pets to the cooling center," adds Nunez.

Signs of heatstroke - Who's at risk?
Heatstroke is the complete breakdown of the body's regulation of heat. It most commonly occurs toward the end of the summer heat period when there are temperatures over 100 degrees for several days. Symptoms of heatstroke can include unconsciousness, very high fever, bizarre behavior, hallucinations and altered consciousness. Sweating may or may not be a symptom.

On hot days, it is important to be aware of the signs, symptoms and treatment of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. People most at risk for heatstroke and heat exhaustion are the elderly, poor or socially isolated people who need help and the chronically ill.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) some people are at greater risk than others. These groups include:
* Infants and children up to four years of age are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and rely on others to regulate their environments and provide adequate liquids.
* People 65 years of age or older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to change in temperature.
* People who are overweight may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat.
* People who overexert during work or exercise may become dehydrated and susceptible to heat sickness.
* People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation, may be affected by extreme heat.
Tips for dealing with the heat
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued the following tips to protect yourself and your loved ones during a heat wave.

* Drink Plenty of Fluids - During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Avoid drinks that can lead to dehydration such as alcohol, tea, coffee, soda and other drinks with caffeine.
* Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully - If you must be outdoors, try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Try to rest often in shady areas so that your body's thermostat will have a chance to recover.
* Take Advantage of Shade and Air Conditioning - Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall, public library or a cooling center. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

Watch for Heat Wave Updates On InHealth
Public service announcements related to the opening of Washington Hospital's cooling center will also be broadcast on InHealth, A Washington Hospital Channel on Comcast 78.

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