Beat the heat and be safe
The Henry and Stark County Health Departments remind area residents of the importance of staying safe in this summer’s heat. RaeAnn Tucker, Health Department Director of Health Promotion states, “Summer’s warmth, enjoyed by so many people, can be dangerous when the temperature climbs above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to making one feel fatigued and uncomfortable, unchecked exposure to excessive heat can lead to serious illness and even death.”
Tucker adds, “During hot and humid weather the body’s ability to cool itself is affected. When the body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost through dehydration or sweating, body temperature rises and heat-related illnesses may develop.
Heat-related illnesses can range from heat cramps to heat exhaustion to more serious heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.”
Heat Cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat. Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle and gently massage the area. Give an electrolyte-containing fluid, such as a commercial sports drink, fruit juice or milk. Water may also be given. Do not give the person salt tablets.
Heat Exhaustion is a more severe condition. Heat exhaustion often affects athletes, firefighters, construction workers and factory workers. It also affects those wearing heavy clothing in a hot, humid environment. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion. Move the person to a cooler environment with circulating air. Remove or loosen as much clothing as possible and apply cool, wet clothes or towels to the skin. Fanning or spraying the person with water also can help. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of a cool fluid such as a commercial sports drink or fruit juice to restore fluids and electrolytes. Milk or water may also be given. Give about 4 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that usually occurs by ignoring the signals of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke develops when the body’s systems are overwhelmed by heat and begin to stop functioning. Signs of heat stroke include extremely high body temperature, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures. Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately. If someone you know exhibits signs of heat stroke, emergency assistance is essential.
Everyone is affected by extreme heat; however, those people at higher risk of a heat-related illness include: older adults, infants and young children, people with chronic heart/lung problems, people with disabilities, overweight persons, those who work in hot settings, users of some medications, and people who are isolated that don’t know when or how to cool off or when to call for help.
To avoid heat related stress remember:
* Avoid outdoor activities from noon to 4 p.m.
* Use fans or air-conditioners liberally or visit air-conditioned places (shopping malls, libraries, theatres).
* Never leave children or pets alone in enclosed vehicles.
* Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
* Eat small meals and eat more often.
* Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
* Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
* Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors and use a buddy system when working in excessive heat.
* Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
* Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat.
For more information on heat safety and other summer survival strategies, contact the Health Department at (309) 852-0197 (Henry) or 852-3115 (Stark) or visit our website at www.henrystarkhealth.com or find us on Facebook at Henry and Stark County Health Departments or Follow Us On Twitter.