Cool It

With the record-setting temperatures in the area lately, even the healthiest adults can suffer from heat-related conditions.

Some of the warning signs can be easy to miss. Brush up on the signs, and what to do if you see them.

When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Infants and children up to four years of age, people 65 years of age and older, people who are overweight, and people who are ill or on certain medications have the highest risk.

During hot weather you will need to drink more liquid than your thirst indicates. Increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16 to 32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour. Avoid drinks containing alcohol or large amounts of sugar because they will actually cause you to lose more fluid.

Heat exhaustion can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, those with high blood pressure, and those working or exercising in a hot environment. The warning signs of heat exhaustion may include heavy sweating; paleness; muscle cramps; tiredness; weakness; dizziness; headache; nausea or vomiting; and fainting.

To treat heat exhaustion, drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages; rest; take a cool shower or bath; seek an air-conditioned environment; and wear lightweight clothing. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. Body temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may 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.

Warning signs may include extremely high body temperature (above 103°F); red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating);  rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness.

If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Get the victim to a shady area. Cool the victim rapidly, using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; or spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose. Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F.    Get medical assistance as soon as possible.

Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms — usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs — that may occur in association with strenuous activity. People who sweat a lot during strenuous activity are prone to heat cramps. This sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture. The low salt level in the muscles causes painful cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion. If you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, seek medical attention for heat cramp.

Stop all activity and sit quietly in a cool place; drink clear juice or a sports beverage; do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke; seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in 1 hour.

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children. Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.

The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected area dry. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort.

Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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