When temperatures reach the upper 90s and into the 100s for even a short period of time, residents need to take extra precautions with their health. Two common problems involved with extreme heat are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion or heat stress is the overheating of the body due to excessive loss of water. It can be caused by prolonged exposure to hot temperatures, limited fluid and/or insufficient dietary salt intake. Anyone can develop heat exhaustion during hot weather. Certain situations can lead to heat illness more readily: long stretches of hot days, recent illness, heavy/restrictive clothing, or working in a hot environment.
Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion:
- Muscle cramps
- Intense thirst
- Excessive sweating
- Dizziness, fatigue, faintness
- Slow weak, pulse
- Rapid, shallow breathing
Anyone affected by heat exhaustion should get out of the sun and move to a cooler location immediately, loosen or remove clothing, apply ice packs to the neck, groin and armpits, and consume 1 to 2 quarts of fluids. Never give the victim salt tablets or alcohol rubs.
Heat stroke can occur when the body’s cooling system breaks down. The primary cause of heat stroke is ignoring heat exhaustion. Heat stroke can be avoided by treating heat exhaustion first.
Signs and symptoms of heat stroke:
The key sign of heat stroke is the loss of the ability to sweat, which happens when your body temperature reaches 105 degrees. At this point, the body’s brain and organ tissues begin to die. Other symptoms include:
- hot, dry flushed skin
- a fast or slow heart rate
- loss of concentration
Heat stroke is a medical emergency, call 911. Move the victim out of the sun, loosen clothing, give 1-2 quarts of fluid, and apply ice packs to the neck, groin, and armpits. Never give the victim salt tablets or alcohol rubs.
You can still enjoy the warm temperatures and sunshine this summer, but please follow the guidelines below to help prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- limit activity to early morning or late afternoon
- enjoy activities at cool locations such as the mall or movie theatres
- stop activity if lightheaded or dizzy
- use sunscreen
- wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
- drink plenty of water – don’t wait until you’re thirsty
- avoid caffeine and alcohol
- check medicine to see whether it is affected by heat
- never leave anyone – especially children and pets – in a locked car
- provide pets plenty of water and shelter
Who is at Risk?
While we are all at risk for heat-related illness if we do not take proper precautions, others may be at an increased risk and should be carefully looked after. If you know someone in the following categories, please be mindful of their health and safety during times of extreme heat. Check on them twice a day to ensure they are safe and taking proper precautions to protect themselves.
- The elderly
- Infants and young children
- Individuals with chronic health problems or taking certain medications
- Mentally ill