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Avoid Heat Stroke: Drink Before You're Thirsty

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- The heat wave that has engulfed much of the country will smother Fairfield County for the next few days, so it's prudent to keep in mind some practical ways you, your friends and family can avoid dangerous illnesses such as heat stroke.

See also: As Temperatures Rise, so can Electric Bills

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips to stay cool, hydrated and healthy during periods of prolonged and intense heat. Following are some highlights.

Drink more nonalcoholic fluids, regardless of your activity level. This means you should not wait until you're thirsty to drink. However, if your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask her or him how much you should drink during hot weather.

Avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, as both actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, try not to drink extremely cold beverages, as they can cause stomach cramps.

Stay indoors and, if possible, in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, consider a trip to the shopping mall or public library. Just a few hours spent in a cool temperature can help the body stay cooler when you return to the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any cooling centers in your area. Residents can dial 211 or search to find a cooling center.

Electric fans provide a breeze, but when the temperature is in the high 90s fans do not prevent heat-related illness . Take a cool shower or bath, or move to an air-conditioned place in order to cool off.

Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Never leave anyone -- companion, child or pet -- in a closed, parked vehicle .

Some people are at greater risk than others, so make sure to check regularly on infants and young children, people aged 65 or older and those with mental illness or who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure.

If you must be outside in the heat, limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours .? But if you do feel the need to exert yourself, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. Sports beverages such as Gatorade can replace salt and minerals lost in perspiration. Also, rest often in shady areas.

Wear a wide-brimmed hat, which also keeps you cooler, and sunglasses when in the sun . Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher (the most effective products have "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" printed on the label).

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