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Summer Heat Safety

As winter has come and gone, we are anxious to store away its reminders like shovels, heaters, boots and warm apparel. Instead, the onset of warmer weather has us longing for day's outdoors, family barbeques, golf, baseball, vacations, and long strolls around the neighborhood. Let's not forget that the warmer temperatures bring their own set of concerns and problems. The number one concern is heat. Heat can cause serious problems with your health and safety.

When the weather is hot, your body works overtime trying to stay cool. Excess heat escapes through sweating, exhalation of air and increased blood flow to the skin. Hot weather can overwhelm those mechanisms, leading to uncomfortable and oftentimes harmful symptoms. Heat problems are preventable with the proper precautions. Be aware and enjoy the summer.

Symptoms of Heat-Induced Ailments:

  • Dehydration – thirst, less frequent urination
  • Prickly heat bumps - irritating skin rash
  • Cramps: painful muscle contractions
  • Edema – swelling of hands and feet
  • Exhaustion / Fatigue – characterized by clammy skin, paleness, dizziness, nausea, fever, and headache

Seek immediate medical help if you or someone else develops the following symptoms that may be a Heat Stroke – the most severe of heat illness which is a life threatening situation:

  • Lethargy, sluggishness
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Confusion, disorientation, agitation. irritability
  • High body temperature
  • Intense muscle aches, fever, diarrhea or nausea
  • Convulsion, fainting, seizure, loss of consciousness

HEAT STROKE IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY – CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY

Support for a Heat Stroke Victim: while you are waiting for help to arrive you can assist the person by doing the following:

  • Get the person out of the heat to a cooler environment – take indoors if possible;
  • Fan the person with a newspaper or towel – to cool the body;
  • Loosen or remove clothing and sprinkle the skin lightly with water;
  • Elevate feet to direct blood flow back towards the head;
  • If available: apply icepacks to the groin area or armpits.

Some people are at greater risk than others to suffer heat-related illness:

  • Infants and young children;
  • People aged 65 and older;
  • People with mental illness;
  • Those persons who are physically ill, or have heart disease or high blood pressure;
  • Those persons who must work in / wear protective equipment: helmets, respirators, heavy clothing.

How to Beat the Heat – some prevention tips:

  • Drink more fluids such as water or electrolyte drinks (sports drinks) to prevent dehydration.
  • Wear loose fitting, lightweight, light colored clothing.
  • Avoid drinking liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugary sodas – these cause a lost in body fluids.
  • Stay indoors (if possible) in an air-conditioned place. If you do not have air conditioning go to a shopping mall, public library, or City-sponsored cooling centers -a few hours spent in these environments can help your body stay cooler.
  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but when temperatures soar in the 90s, fans do little to prevent heat-related illness.
  • NEVER leave the elderly, children or pets in a closed, parked vehicle.
  • Medications – consult your health care provider or pharmacist to see which medicines are affected by heat conditions.
  • Limit exercise to moderate activity. Do not exert yourself. Try to exercise during cooler periods of the day such as early morning or late evening hours.
  • Rest – whenever necessary.

 

Resources:
CDC – Center for Disease Control
US Department of Labor – OSHA 3154
University of Maryland Center
FEMA


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