This is a guest post. It’s summer time, so get ready for the heat with these tips on staying safe and cool this summer!
Summer heat is tougher on the elderly and those with health issues, but even healthy adults and children can suffer the effects of heat exposure. CDC statistics indicate over 700 people die each year from heat related exposure. Learning the signs of heat related illnesses and how to prevent them is necessary in areas of the country with soaring summer temperatures.
Know the Signs of Heat Related Illnesses
Heat cramps are the first sign of heat stress which causes physical symptoms that can quickly worsen. In all stages of heat illness, it is important for the victim to get out of the heat. Heat cramps begin with sweating and thirst and progresses to muscle cramping in the legs, arms, stomach or lower abdominal area. It is treated by getting the victim to a cool area and rehydrating with water and an electrolyte.
Heat exhaustion follows heat cramps but precedes the more serious condition of heat stroke. It begins with excessive sweating and a cool feeling to the skin. Dizziness, dark urine, weakness and cramping muscles are also symptoms. When any or all of these symptoms are present in someone who is exposed to summer heat, get them to a cool place immediately. A cool shower or bath along with drinking water or other beverages that do not contain caffeine or alcohol cools and rehydrates the body. Cool wet cloths applied to the skin are also helpful. A fan blowing on a wet cloth dissipates heat more rapidly.
Heat stroke is a more serious heat related condition. Its symptoms include a high temperature of 104 degrees with skin taking on a flushed or red appearance along with a lack of sweating. Muscle cramps, dizziness and nausea leading to vomiting are also likely. Mental confusion or unconsciousness are also symptoms depending on how advanced the heat stroke is. This is an emergency situation where 911 should be called. Before emergency services arrive, attempt to cool the heat stroke victim with wet towels or ice packs at the head, neck and groin areas. If a fan is nearby, use it to blow air on the victim while misting them with cool water.
Keeping Cool Indoors
Nothing beats air conditioning for maintaining proper body temperature in the summer heat. If an air conditioned room is not available to someone indoors on a hot day, ventilation and evaporative cooling should be the next approach. This requires a fan or fans to briskly move the air while moistening the skin with cloths soaked in cool water or misting with a water bottle.
Keeping Cool Outdoors
Avoid physical exertion on days when a heat warning has been announced. On summer days that do not have a heat warning, only do activities such as yard work in the early morning or late evening before dark. Drink water and an electrolyte drink even if not thirsty. A quart of water can be lost to profuse sweating in less than an hour.
Wearing light fabrics that do not bind help the skin to naturally cool itself. Stay in the shade. Wear a hat with a wide brim in the sun, but take it off in the shade since the head area radiates a lot of heat. Evaporative cooling works outdoors as well. A breeze or fan blowing on skin that is moistened with cool water from a washcloth or misting bottle pulls heat away.
Stop, hydrate and cool down very often on warm days. It is possible for some individuals to not feel the initial symptoms of heat illness rapidly progressing to heat stroke where unconsciousness may be the first symptom. This is especially true of individuals who already have an underlying health condition or are on medications.