With temperatures expected to remain in the mid to upper 90s this week, local and state health officials are recommending that people stay in an air conditioned area during peak times of the day and remain aware of signs indicating heat-related illness.
“If they have to go outside, we advise people to try to intermittently stay in the shade, especially the elderly, small children and people with compromised health,” said Kim Papich, spokeswoman for the Spokane County Regional Health District.
Papich said high temperatures could create a moderate risk for those sensitive to heat – especially children, seniors and people with chronic illnesses.
The health district advises people without adequate cooling to seek relief from the heat by visiting public places with air conditioning.
State health officials also issued an advisory urging people to take precautions and stay hydrated during extreme heat.
The Washington State Department of Health recently implemented a system that tracks data provided by hospitals across the state to identify trends with illnesses, such as heat stroke.
“What we found was for the recent heatwave a couple weeks back, we did get an increase in people seeking treatment for heat-related illnesses,” said Julie Graham, spokeswoman for DOH. “Primarily, it was people working or exercising in the heat.”
Early warning signs of heat stress are: decreased energy, light-headedness, headache, nausea and slight loss of appetite. People experiencing those symptoms should go to a cool environment, drink fluids and rest.
The health district advises people to always check the back seat of their vehicle to prevent leaving children and animals in a parked car – which can reach temperatures of more than 120 degrees.
“The temperature does not need to reach hot summer heat temperatures to present an imminent danger to pets, especially pets in vehicles, said Lindsey Soffes, director of SCRAPS in a release. “Car temperatures rapidly increase and can overwhelm a pet in a very short time, and typically cracking a window or two is not enough.”
It’s important to visit older friends, relatives and neighbors to ensure fans and air conditioners are working in their homes.
The Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey, which was conducted in 2015, found Seattle is the least air-conditioned city in the nation out of 41 metro areas, according to the Seattle Times.
The survey didn’t include data for Spokane County, but indicates only one of three housing units in Seattle had an air conditioner – a number significantly less than the national average of 89 percent of homes with air conditioning.
Rick Weber, manager of ACE Hardware in Spokane Valley, said the store hasn’t seen an increase in sales for air conditioners just yet.
“It’s one of those things that people wait to buy until it starts getting really hot,” he said. “We don’t run huge quantities, but we can usually get what people need.”
Residents should have air conditioning units serviced in the spring before the heat hits as well as ensure air filters stay clean to keep them working properly, said Ed Vantassel, service manager for the Barton Boys Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc.
Vantassel said business is booming with calls from people wanting to get their air conditioning serviced before the heat wave hits.
“Once they get news that the heat is coming, it becomes a mad rush,” he said. “On the first really hot day, the phones just blow up. It’s the same every year. It’s pretty much the norm.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day's top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter