State health department encourages heat safety

The Alabama Department of Public Health is advising the public to be alert to the warning signs of heat-related illnesses and adjust their activities accordingly.

Heat-related illnesses occur when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded, so people are urged to watch for warnings that might signal help is needed.

Heat stroke, sometimes called sunstroke, is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10-15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

People should drink plenty of water, stay in air-conditioning and keep out of the sun to help prevent heat stroke and other heat-related diseases. The public should also check on elderly relatives, neighbors and friends and ensure pets have plenty of water to drink and shade to cool off.

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but include the following, according to the ADPH:

· An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees)
· Red, hot and dry skin with no sweating
· Rapid, strong pulse
· Throbbing headache
· Dizziness
· Nausea
· Confusion
· Unconsciousness

If heat stroke is suspected, immediately call 911. First aid recommendations are to get the person to a shady area; cool rapidly in a tub of cool water; place in a cool shower; spray with cool water from a garden hose; splash with cool water; or, if the humidity is low, place in a cool, wet sheet and fan vigorously. Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the person’s body temperature drops to 101-102 degrees. If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call a hospital emergency room for further instructions.

People who work outside can be especially at risk. These people should take frequent breaks to cool off and drink lots of water and electrolyte replacement beverages to replace lost fluids, the ADPH advises.

Individuals with heart problems, poor circulation, diabetes, a previous stroke or obesity are also at greater risk of becoming sick in hot weather. The risk of heat-related illness might increase among people using medications for high blood pressure, nervousness or depression, as well.

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