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Keeping it cool in the summer sun

FRANKLIN LIVING—Summertime activity, whether on the playing field or the construction site, must be balanced with actions that help the body cool itself to prevent heat-related illness.

What is extreme heat?

Extreme heat is defined as summertime temperatures that are much hotter and/or humid than average. Because some places are hotter than others, this depends on what’s considered average for a particular location at that time of year.

What causes heat-related illness?

Heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heat stroke happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat this might not be enough. In these cases, a person’s body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. This can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.

Some factors that might increase your risk of developing a heat-related illness include high levels of humidity, obesity, fever, dehydration, prescription drug use, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn and alcohol use.

Who is most at risk?

Older adults, the very young and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/specificgroups.html). However, even young and healthy people can be affected if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

How can I prevent heat-related illness?

Heat-related illnesses are preventable. Despite this, according to the CDC around 618 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year. Here are some ways to prevent these tragedies from happening to you and your loved ones:

Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

  1. Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks: These actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks because they can cause stomach cramps.
  2. Replace salt and minerals: Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. If you are on a low-salt diet or have diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic conditions, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.
  3. Check for updates: Check your local news for extreme heat alerts and safety tips and to learn about any cooling shelters in the area.
  4. Know the signs: Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses(https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning.html) and how to treat them.
  5. Use a buddy system: When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

 

Heat stroke

  • Warning signs: high body temperature (103 degrees or higher); hot, red, dry or damp skin; fast strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; losing consciousness
  • Take action: Call 911 right away, move the person to a cooler place, help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath and do not give the person anything to drink.

Heat exhaustion

  • Warning signs: heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; fast weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; tiredness or weakness; dizziness; headache; fainting
  • Take action: Move to a cool place, loosen your clothes, put cool wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath and sip water. Get medical help right away if you are throwing up or your symptoms get worse or last longer than an hour.

Heat cramps

  • Warning signs: heavy sweating during intense exercise and muscle pain or spasms
  • Take action: Stop physical activity and move to a cool place, drink water or a sports drink and wait for cramps to go away before resuming physical activity. Get medical help right away if your cramps last longer than one hour, you’re on a low-sodium diet or you have heart problems.

Sunburn

  • Warning signs: painful, red and warm skin; and blisters on the skin
  • Take action: Stay out of the sun until sunburn heals, put cool cloths on sunburn or take a cool bath, put moisturizing lotion on sunburned areas and do not break blisters.

Heat rash

  • Warning signs: Red clusters of small blisters that look like pimples, usually on the neck, chest, groin or in elbow creases
  • Take action: Stay in a cool, dry place, keep the rash dry and use powder to soothe the rash.

Courtesy of SHERRY JOLLEY, RED BAY HOSPITAL

Photo by CHRISTOPHER WEBB

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