Every year in the U.S., more than 600 deaths are attributed to excessive natural heat. Many of these deaths are easily prevented by taking precautionary measures. Genesis Medical Center emergency physician David Dierks, D.O., offers these tips to avoid being a victim of the heat:
- Stay out of the heat when possible. The young and old are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat. People with other chronic conditions such as heart disease, mental health conditions, asthma and high blood pressure are also at higher risk for heat illnesses.
- Make sure you don’t leave small children or pets in a vehicle. Temperatures can rise quickly to fatal ranges. One suggestion is to put something vital to your day in the back seat with a child, such as a phone, a shoe, or work materials. Newer vehicles now have warnings about checking the back seats.
- Check on elderly and sick friends, neighbors and relatives several times a day during a hot spell.
- Eat smaller meals but eat more frequently.
- Drink plenty of water, particularly when exercising or working outdoors. One guideline is eight ounces of water for every 20 minutes of outdoor activity.
- Get in shade or air conditioning if you begin to feel dizzy or nauseous.
- Seek medical treatment immediately if you are disoriented, have a high body temperature, are vomiting or have stopped sweating.
- When possible, complete outdoor work either early or late in the day.
- Take a phone if you go out to walk, jog or ride a bike. If you get into trouble, call for help.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine drinks. Both act as diuretics and speed up the loss of fluid.
- Make sure children take breaks from outdoor activities. Take a break from outside activities during the hottest part of the day. Go inside to play games or watch a movie with family/friends.
- Take care of your skin if you are outdoors. Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and wear a wide-brimmed hat. Reapply sunscreen frequently, especially if you are swimming.
Stay alert for symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke when temperatures rise.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Body temperature may be normal or is likely to be rising.
Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be 105 degrees F or higher. If the ill person is sweating from heavy work or exercise, the skin may be wet; otherwise, it will feel dry.