As temperatures soar in many parts of the country, remember summer heat can be dangerous and can kill. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, hundreds of people die every year from heat-related illness/injury, which are completely preventable.
The elderly and very young kids are most at risk. The way we regulate our temperature in hot conditions is by sweating. As our sweat evaporates, it cools our bodies. However on very hot muggy summer days, the humidity in the airs prevents this system from working effectively, and we are all more at risk for heat-related injuries.
Heat illness is a spectrum that goes from heat exhaustion to the life-threatening condition called heat stroke. The warning signs of heat-related illness are cool, sweaty moist skin with goose bumps in the heat. Dizziness, headache, muscle cramps with nausea and vomiting can also be present. Once you notice any neurological changes such as confusion, hallucinations, seizures or the person becomes unconscious and lapses into a coma, that is the life-threatening emergency called heat stroke. You need to call 911 right away.
Any warning symptoms should prompt you to get out of the heat and into some place cool while replacing your fluids. Here are some prevention tips to avoid heat-related illness:
- Stay Well Hydrated - Drink plenty of fluids; if you are sweating a lot, consider sports drinks to replace the salts and minerals.
- Cover Up in the Sun - Use sunscreen and wear loose, light-colored clothing as well as a brimmed hat.
- Limit Activity During the Hottest Part of the Day - Try not to be participating in outdoor activity during midday, which is the hottest part of the day. Pace yourself if you are exercising in the heat; you should not allow your heart rate to be pounding nor should you allow yourself to feel completely out of breath and gasping for air.
- If Indoors, Keep Your House Ventilated - If you are indoors and have no air-conditioning, open windows and use fans to circulate the air.
- Don’t Delay Getting Help for Symptoms - If you find yourself or someone else might be suffering from heat-related illness, move to a cooler shady place, lie down, drink some fluids, and call 911.