The summer of 2010 began with a sweltering heat wave in much of the U.S., with temperatures hitting triple digits, coupled with high humidity.
Young children, the elderly, and people with serious health conditions are at particular risk of heat stroke. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heat-related illness occurs when your body cannot properly cool itself by sweating. Very high body temperatures can damage the brain and other vital organs. Risk factors include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.
AOL News reports at least one person on the east coast has died due to excessive heat exposure this month.
How to avoid heat-related illness:
- The number one protective factor against heat-related illness is air-conditioning. If air-conditioning is not available, use fans or seek a cooling shelter. When outdoors, stay in the shade.
- Don’t ignore excessive heat warnings. Try to avoid direct sunlight during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Never leave the elderly or children alone in a car, even for a few minutes. Car interiors can heat up by 20 degrees in 10 minutes and 30 degrees in 20 minutes.
- Check on people who live alone.
- Stay hydrated with non-caffeinated fluids.
- Avoid strenuous activity and exercise during very hot days. Rest frequently.
- Dress in loose, lightweight clothing. Breathable fabrics like cotton are best.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), early symptoms of heat-related illness include:
- Profuse sweating
- Muscle cramps
Later symptoms include:
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cool, moist skin
- Dark urine
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Fever (temperature above 104 °F)
- Irrational behavior
- Extreme confusion
- Dry, hot, and red skin
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Rapid, weak pulse
If you suspect heat-related illness, the NIH recommends the following steps:
- Have the person lie down in a cool place. Raise the person’s feet about 12 inches.
- Apply cool, wet cloths (or cool water directly) to the person’s skin and use a fan to lower body temperature. Place cold compresses on the person’s neck, groin, and armpits.
- If alert, give the person beverages to sip (such as Gatorade), or make a salted drink by adding a teaspoon of salt per quart of water. Give a half cup every 15 minutes. Cool water will do if salt beverages are not available.
- For muscle cramps, give beverages as above and massage affected muscles gently, but firmly, until they relax.
- If the person shows signs of shock (bluish lips and fingernails and decreased alertness), starts having seizures, or loses consciousness, call 911 and give first aid as needed.
Related Reading on Care2
- Let’s not forget our four-legged friends: How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Pets
- Tips for people living with multiple sclerosis: Surviving Summer with Multiple Sclerosis
- And more Summer Secrets to Keep You Cool
Photo: U.S. Centers for Disease Control