Mass. Nonprofits Offer Advice In Response to Heat Wave

August 28, 2018 — Massachusetts nonprofits are warning residents to take extra care and watch out for vulnerable neighbors in response to the heat wave that is hitting the region this week.

Temperatures across Massachusetts are expected to be in the mid-to-high 90s today, tomorrow, and possibly through Thursday. The National Weather Service (NWS) in Boston/Norton issued an excessive heat warning until 9 p.m. today with a heat index as high as 107.

A heat wave is defined as three or more consecutive days with temperatures above 90 degrees.

Several school districts—Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Medford, and Springfield—announced early dismissals this week. Holyoke Public Schools delayed the opening of the school year by two days until Thursday and cancelled all athletic events.

Ethos, a Boston nonprofit that provides home care, healthy aging, nutrition, and other services, in a statement issued today noted that heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness, and advised, "Drink plenty of fluids, wear loose fitting clothing, and avoid outdoor physical activity."

Check with your local authorities or call 2-1-1 to find locations of cooling centers or shelters near you. Mass 2-1-1 was created and is staffed by the United Way, a service to connect callers to information about critical health and human services programs.

“Two of the best tips I can offer, if at all possible, is to stay out of the heat and take it slow and easy with athletic activity and working outdoors,” said Dr. Gerald Beltran, emergency medicine physician at Baystate Health, a nonprofit health care system based in Springfield that serves 800,000 people.

He noted that people at greatest risk for developing a heat-related illness are children under 5 and people 65 years of age and older, who have the least ability to regulate their body temperatures, as well as those who work outdoors for a living. Overweight people and others with chronic illnesses such as heart disease or high blood pressure, as well as those on certain medications, are also at high risk.

To keep cool, Baystate Health advises:
  1. Stay out of the heat. Avoid direct sunlight and strenuous activity outdoors.

  2. Dress for the weather. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a broad-brimmed hat when outdoors. Stay away from polyester in favor of cotton and linens which are better at repelling the sun’s heat.

  3. Drink plenty of liquids. Begin drinking before you go outside and, if exercising, drink one quart of liquid an hour to replace lost fluid. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol which can contribute to the loss of more body fluid.

  4. Take it slow and easy with athletic activity and working outdoors. Postpone athletic activity during high heat and humidity. Limit outdoor activities to the morning and evening.

  5. Eat smaller meals. Instead of the usual rule of eating three square meals a day, eat smaller meals more frequently on days when the sun turns up the heat.
NWS advises: Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances. This is especially true during warm or hot weather when car interiors can reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes.