6 Ways to Prevent a Heat-Related Illness
Spending time outside in the sun is one of the best parts of summer, but if it gets too hot, the heat can be dangerous. Take these precautions to protect yourself.
- Listen to local weather forecasts. Know when extreme heat is coming so you can prepare accordingly.
- If possible, stay indoors. Avoid the heat during the hottest part of the day by staying in air-conditioned places. If you have to go outside, try to do so in the morning or evening when the sun isn't at its strongest.
- Never leave children or pets in enclosed vehicles. Temperatures inside a hot car can rise to dangerous levels in mere minutes. Cracking the windows isn't sufficient either. The dangerous levels of heat in a car can lead to heat stroke which can lead to death.
- Stay hydrated! When it's hot outside, be sure to drink plenty of water. The body needs water to stay cool. Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Stay cool in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing. Dark colors should be avoided because they absorb the sun's rays.
- Check on family, friends, and neighbors. The elderly, young, sick, and overweight are prone to be victims of excessive heat. Check on those you know who may be struggling in the heat.
Extreme heat means that people can fall ill to heat-related conditions. It's important to be able to recognize heat illnesses and know how to treat them. Courtesy of redcross.org, here are the heat illnesses you need to know:
- Heat Cramps: Muscular pains and spasms that occur in the legs or abdomens due to exposure to high heat and humidity and loss of fluids and electrolytes. Heat cramps are usually an early sign that the body is having difficulty with the heat. If these happen, go to a cool place and rest. Stretch and massage the muscle. Then, drink water or a beverage with electrolytes.
- Heat Exhaustion: Those who work outside are prone to heat exhaustion. Signs include cool, moist, pale, ashen, or flushed skin, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and exhaustion. Get the person inside to a cool environment with air conditioning. Remove or loosen clothing and apply wet cloths to the skin. Give the person 4 ounces of a drink with electrolytes every 15 minutes. Water may also be given. If the person does not improve or he or she declines water, changes in consciousness, or vomits, call 911.
- Heat Stroke: This is life-threatening. By ignoring the signs of heat exhaustion, the body systems become overwhelmed by heat and begin to stop functioning. The signs of heat stroke are extremely high body temperature, red skin which may be dry or moist, changes in
consciousness, rapid, weak pulse, shallow breathing, confusion, vomiting, and seizures. Call 911 immediately. While waiting for the paramedics, get the person up to the neck in cold water or sponge the person with ice water-doused towels over the entire body.