The Safety Net


Summer Hazards

Heat Related Illnesses

This notice is one of a series of notices gleaned from actual events that occurred in Ohio. Please circulate these widely especially to direct contact staff and house managers.



Heat related illnesses can be life threatening, and are caused by overexposure to a hot environment, such as:

  • a hot, humid sunny day (>90 degrees F) 
  • a hot building with inadequate ventilation or cooling 
Types of Heat Related Illnesses

Heat cramps 
Symptoms: Muscle cramps (usually in legs), sweating; Caused by not taking enough oral fluids to replace fluids and body salts lost from sweating during physical activity, Not life threatening, can progress to heat exhaustion, treat with non-caffeinated fluids (water or sports drink best), rest, cool environment 
Heat exhaustion
Symptoms: Nausea, extreme weakness, vomiting, lightheadedness, fainting, skin cool and clammy (profuse sweating) and pale or red, rapid heart beat, low blood pressure, caused by not enough fluids during physical activity, high environmental temperature, body temperature raises to over 102 degrees F. Serious illness, can be life threatening. Treat with removal to cool environment, offer non-caffeinated fluids (water or sports drink best), cool body with wet towels and fanning, lying down with feet elevated, and seek medical attention 
Heat stroke 
Symptoms: Red hot flushed dry skin (usually lack of sweating, although young persons may show wet skin), high body temperature (usually >105-106 degrees F), headache, rapid pulse, disorientation/confusion or strange behavior, hallucinations, seizures, unconsciousness, caused by failure of the heat regulating systems of the body when environment is hot and humidity high; individual may be dehydrated; may or may not be related to physical activity Life threatening Seek emergency medical treatment from emergency medical services or the closest emergency department immediately; remove individuals to cool environment, position individual lying down with feet elevated, and cool body with wet towels, cold packs, and fanning, offer cool water to drink 
Risk factors for heat related illnesses
  • Elderly, chronically ill or incapacitating illness
  • Poor physical conditioning 
  • High environmental temperature and humidity 
  • Poor ventilation or cooling in buildings 
  • Medications that inhibit perspiration or increase fluid loss, including
    1. those used to treat psychiatric conditions (neuroleptics)
    2. those used to treat movement disorders (antiparkinsonian drugs, including Cogentin)
    3. those used to treat allergies (antihistamines)diuretics (water pills) 
  • Poor fluid intake

Prevention of Heat Related Illnesses

  • Maintain hydration with water and sports drinks; 
    1. provide extra fluids at meal times, at least 8 glasses of water a day, more in hot weather 
    2. avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol (both increase fluid loss) 
  • Maintain ventilation of environment, including buildings and apartments, and keep it as cool as possible
    1. stay in shaded area outdoors, 
    2. use fans and air conditioning indoors,
    3. open windows to allow cross ventilation if no air conditioning 
    4. avoid crowds
  • Take frequent breaks when outside in hot sun or when involved in physical activity; 
    1. know the limits of activity tolerance
    2. schedule activities for cool environments or during the cooler part of the day 
  • Wear light colored loose fitting clothing (dark colors absorb heat, loose clothes help the body to cool) 
  • Eat light meals 
  • Be aware of individuals with risk factors for heat related illness; monitor them at regular intervals

Outdoor Activities and Precautions

Summer is an enjoyable time for picnics and outdoor activities. Listed below are areas to be mindful of when planning or participating in activities.
  • Sunburn/Insect Bites
    1. Some medications increase a person's sensitivity to the sun. Check this out with your nursing staff or physician
    2. Be sure sunscreen is applied before going out and re-applied during the outing
    3. Use lotion or repellent to keep away mosquitoes. Be mindful of bees and possible allergies to them
  • Bicycle Safety
    1. Review safety procedures with the individual
    2. Know where they are going to be riding
    3. Ensure each rider is wearing a helmet and kneepads
  • Choking
    1. Be mindful of individuals eating while walking/running around or eating food rapidly so they can rush to enjoy an activity. Be sure they have finished eating before getting involved in other activities
  • Barefoot/Sandals
    1. Be mindful of potential injuries when going barefoot or wearing sandals
  • Outdoor grills can result in burns if proper safety requirements and supervision are not provided.
    1. Be sure lid is open before lighting a gas grill
    2. Don't squeeze extra fire starter on coals when they are already burning
    3. Check grills for proper working order
    4. Supervise individuals closely when grilling


Summer Camps and Precautions

Camps provide fun and enjoyment for individuals, but also can result in serious harm or death if necessary precautions are not taken. Every year people drown in swimming pools. It is also time for sunburn, bug bites, poison ivy, heat stroke, and related illness. Proper planning is important when individuals are attending camp. The following steps may assist with ensuring an enjoyable experience:

  • Be familiar with the camp and possible dangers for the individual(s) attending
  • Know who will be supervising the individual and what experience they have. Be sure you are comfortable with what will be occurring
  • Communicate face-to-face with the camp director on any dietary requirement, supervision requirements, medical needs, or behavior issues. Provide a written copy of the information needed (e.g., ISP, Behavior Plan, etc.)
  • Be sure lotion for sunburn and bug bites is provided or available. Be aware of any medications that increase a person's sensitivity to the sun and communicate this to the camp staff
  • If there is a pond, lake or pool discuss the individual's abilities in the water with the camp director and any special needs that exist. Provide a written copy of those needs
  • Be aware of the camp activities and how they match with the individual's physical or health needs



This article has been used by permission from the Ohio Department of mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. All information is believed to be accurate but not guaranteed. The state of Ohio disclaims and liability for errors or omissions. 

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