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Preventing Heat-Related Illness

We’re kicking off a week of summer safety tips with a topic that is at the top of everyone’s mind today:  HEAT!

Much of North Carolina is currently under a heat advisory, and there’s not much chance of a change over the next few days. Temperature has been in the 90s, with high humidity adding new meaning to the word “sweltering.”  It’s a good time to remember that heat is more than just uncomfortable… it can be deadly.

Those who have a higher risk of heat illness are infants, young children, people age 65 and older, people with mental illness, and anyone with cardiovascular health conditions, including heart disease and high blood pressure. Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

To stay healthy through the heat wave, follow these tips from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Stay hydrated! Your body uses up fluids trying to stay cool, even when you’re not sweating. No matter what you are doing–sitting on the deck, playing golf, gardening, or just watching the kids–drink more non-alcoholic liquid. (And make sure the kids stop to drink, too.) Don’t wait until you’re thirsty.  FYI: Water is the best thirst quencher–add berries, slices of cucumber, or a wedge of lemon or lime to add a zest of flavor. Avoid high-sugar and high-caffeine drinks if possible because they can cause you to lose more bodily fluids, but if that’s all you have, they are better than not drinking anything. Also, very cold drink may cause stomach cramps.
  • Do not leave any human or animal in a parked vehicle. That sounds like common sense, but every year we hear about people who do it anyway; they leave the car think they will only be gone for a minute or two, and return to a virtual oven. Even an open window won’t do much to bring down temperatures in a car on days like this. (On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with slightly open windows can reach 110 degrees within about 10 minutes. A few minutes at that temperature can cause irreversible brain damage or even death.)
  • Act like a mushroom and stay in a cool, dark place. Try to get to a place with air conditioning, even if it means hanging out at a shopping mall or public library. Close the blinds or curtains in your house to keep out as much sunlight as possible. The less time you spend in the heat, the better off you’ll be.
  • Wear light-weight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Take cool showers to lower body heat. It may also help to cool your pulse points. Your pulse points are the places in your body where the blood runs closest to the surface of the skin. Cool yourself more quickly by holding a refrigerated water bottle or cool, damp cloth on the inside of your wrists, the back and sides of your neck, and the back of your knees. FYI: Although a fan may make you feel cooler, it does not prevent heat illness once temperature climbs over 90 degrees.
  • Limit outdoor activity to early morning or evening hours.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Illness

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the body loses its ability to sweat, and it is unable to cool down. Body temperatures rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.

Warning signs of heat exhaustion vary, but may include the following:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Skin: may be cool and moist
  • Pulse rate: fast and weak
  • Breathing: fast and shallow

Warning signs of heat stroke vary, but may include the following:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

What to do for Someone with Heat Stress

If you see any signs of severe heat stress, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the affected person. Do the following:

  • Photo of water coming out of shower head.Get the person to a shady area.
  • Cool the person rapidly, using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the person in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the person with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the person in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
  • Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101°–102°F
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
  • Do not give the person alcohol to drink.
  • Get medical assistance as soon as possible.

RESOURCES:

CDC Extreme Heat Info: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/

Heat information for Workers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health:  http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/

Keeping you dog cool:  http://www.mydogiscool.com/

HensonFuerst Law:  https://www.hensonfuerst.com/

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