Friday, July 29, 2011

Heat-Related Emergencies

These past several weeks we have been informing you about different subjects relating to the heat and summer.   Emergencies such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat strokes, sunburn and other summer related issues.  As I am writing this now the temperature is in the triple digits, and there is no end in sight. 

The heat affects everyone, but is more dangerous to the elderly and infants, and those with certain medical conditions.

People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn't enough. In such cases, a person's body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable yet annually many people succumb to extreme heat.  I was just reading today where a 61 year old man from Jackson, MS passed away from heat exhaustion while working in his garden.

Because heat-related deaths are preventable, people need to be aware of who is at greatest risk and what actions can be taken to prevent a heat-related illness or death. The elderly, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather. Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned.

To protect your health when temperatures are extremely high, remember to keep cool and use common sense.  Some things you can do include:

  • Drink Plenty of Fluids;
  • Replace salt and minerals, check with your doctor before ingesting any additional salt though;
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen;
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully, try to limit yourself in morning and evening activities;
  • Pace yourself, take frequent rest periods;
  • Stay cool indoors, use air conditioning, fans and limit the use of stoves and ovens to keep the temperature down;
  • Use the buddy system; keep in contact with those you know who are sick or elderly to make sure they are keeping cool;
  • Never leave children or pets in a parked car; and
  • Use Common sense.

Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. During hot weather health emergencies, keep informed by listening to local weather and news channels or contact local health departments for health and safety updates. Doing too much on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses. Know the symptoms of heat disorders and overexposure to the sun, and be ready to give first aid treatment.

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