Health care providers, researchers and city officials on Thursday presented recommendations on staying safe during heat waves like the one expected to hit much of California this weekend.
The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning for the Bay Area this weekend, with many inland areas expected to see temperatures above 100 degrees.
The state provides three main tips for dealing with the heat, Lucia Abascal, a clinician at the California Department of Public Health, said at a briefing recently organized by Ethnic Media Services and the California Office of Community Partnerships and Strategic Communications.
First, stay cool. It is best to stay inside in a home that has air conditioning. Otherwise, locate an indoor space that provides air conditioning, such as a cooling center, a library or a mall.
Second, stay hydrated. It is important to drink lots of water during a heat wave, ideally containing electrolytes. In addition to water, beverages that contain glucose — such as Gatorade — can also help with hydration, according to family physician Kimberly Chang.
Other than Gatorade, an alternative glucose beverage can be made at home using one liter of water, two tablespoons of sugar and one teaspoon of salt, said family nurse practitioner Sandra Young.
Third, check in with others. Heat waves can disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, including small children, farm workers, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses and the elderly. Making sure that the people who fall in these categories are taken care of during periods of extreme heat is pivotal, Abascal said.
“It’s not your grandmother’s summer,” said Marta Segura, chief heat officer for Los Angeles, who noted that the Southern California city has a fivefold increase in heat wave frequency compared to 10 years ago.
Low-income households are more likely not to have air conditioning, or to not turn it on due to concerns about expenses, which has led to excess deaths and hospitalizations within this population, according to Segura.
Heat also exacerbates pollution, which has a greater adverse impact on low-income individuals as they are more likely to walk or take public transportation, causing more exposure to harmful air, Segura said.
To address the adverse impact, the city is working on expanding cooling shelters at bus stops, providing more indoor cool spaces open to the public and launching multilingual heat education campaigns. Other cities and counties across the state, including Stockton and Monterey County, are also engaging in similar efforts like providing cooling centers.
Also among vulnerable populations to heat across the state are farmworkers, said Young, the nurse practitioner who founded the Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project, an organization that advocates for indigenous migrants from Mexico, many who are employed in the row crop agricultural sector.
Young said farmworkers deserve to know and exercise their right to take a break while on the job, which is especially crucial during extreme heat. Employers should also be equipped with the tools and knowledge to deal with heat strokes if they happen, Young added.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is planning to visit some farms across the state to assess if employers are abiding by these safety measures, according to Segura.