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Protecting Yourself from the Heat

Protecting Yourself from the Heat

Now that the days are getting warmer, more and more people are heading outdoors to enjoy the great summer weather. But it’s important to know how to protect yourself from the extreme heat.

Extreme heat occurs when the summertime temperatures are substantially hotter and/or more humid than average for that time of year. People suffer heat-related illnesses when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. When the humidity is high, sweat won't evaporate as quickly, which keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to. But under some conditions, sweating just isn't enough. In such cases, a person's body temperature rises rapidly, which can cause damage to the brain and body. 

Heat Rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot 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.

What to Do: The most effective measure is to prevent further sweating. Provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected area dry. Apply moisturizing skin products. Add an oatmeal bath product to cool bath water. 

Heat Cramps are muscle pains or spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs, that may occur in association with strenuous activity and profuse sweating.

What to Do: Be physically fit before exercising in the extreme heat. Rest in a cool environment. Drink 1-2 quarts of fluid with electrolytes, such as sport drinks . Consult with your healthcare provider or seek medical attention for severe symptoms.

Heat Exhaustion is a heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate fluid replacement.

Warning signs of heat exhaustion may include the following:

·         Dizziness

·         Fainting

·         Headache

·         Heavy sweating

·         Muscle cramps

·         Nausea and vomiting

·         Paleness

·         Tiredness

·         Weakness

What to do: Consult with your healthcare provider or seek medical attention if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Heat Stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. This is a life-threatening condition. 

Warning signs of heat stroke may include the following:

·         An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)

·         Confusion

·         Dizziness

·         Headache

·         Heart racing

·         Nausea and vomiting

·         Rapid, strong pulse

·         Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)

·         Unconsciousness

What to Do: This is a medical emergency. Have someone call 911 for immediate medical assistance. While waiting, begin cooling off the person by immersing them in cool water. If this is not possible, mist the person with slightly warm water and then fan air across them. 

Ways to prevent heat-related illness:

·         Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event.

·         Drink plenty of fluids. You will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.

Don't drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar. These actually cause you to lose more body fluid.

Avoid very cold drinks, as they can cause stomach cramps

·         Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen. Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing when out and about.

Sunburn affects your body's ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out.

·         Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully. Try to limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Rest often in shady areas so that your body's thermostat will have a chance to recover.

·         Pace Yourself. If you are not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

·         Stay Cool Indoors. Stay indoors in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a public place that does, such as the shopping mall. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area. Take a cool shower or bath. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

·         Monitor Those at High Risk:  Infants and young children are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures; People 65 years of age or older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to change in temperature; People who are overweight may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat.

·         Never Leave Children or Animals in Cars.


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