Since the summer heat is upon us, please take measures to prevent heat stress.
Serious health complications from heat include exhaustion, stroke and dehydration.
Heat exhaustion occurs when sweating, the body’s cooling system, fails to eliminate heat fast enough. The first signs of heat exhaustion are faintness, rapid pulse, flushing or reddening of the skin, and often accompanied by stomachache or headache. When heat exhaustion symptoms occur, stop all activity and drink liquids such as water or re-hydrating fluids (Gatorade, Powerade, or for children, Pedialyte). Do not drink alcohol, coffee, or caffeinated soft drinks. If possible, take a cool shower.
Heat stroke, a more serious and potentially deadly situation, is commonly associated with confusion on the part of the affected person, who may also stop sweating. In this situation, seek medical help immediately. While waiting for help, the person needs to be cooled, or if possible, taken to a cooler environment.
Dehydration occurs as a contributing factor and comes when fluid and sodium lost by sweating are not replaced quickly enough. A person should continually drink fluids and not wait until thirsty because thirst is a sign of dehydration. It’s important to maintain fluids by drinking two to four glasses of cool water or fluids an hour.
Anyone, even young and healthy individuals, can suffer heat stress if they are very active during hot weather or the heat index is very high; however, the following people are at greatest risk:
- Individuals 65 years of age or older
- Infants and young children
- Overweight individuals
- People who are performing manual labor or exercising outdoors
- People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take medications, such as those for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation
Keep cool and use common sense when temperatures and humidity are high by:
- Keeping in the shade or air conditioned areas as much as possible
- Increasing fluid intake
- Replacing salt and minerals by eating foods like bananas and salty crackers, or drinking rehydrating beverages such as sports drinks
- Choosing lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
- Wearing sunscreen
- Working slowly if not used to working or exercising in heat and humidity
- Stopping outdoor activities immediately if they feel dizzy or nauseated
- Using a buddy system. Watch others for heat-induced illness.
For additional information on heat stress, visit www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/ or www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.asp. For more information locally, please call Veterans Memorial Hospital Community and Home Care- Allamakee Public Health at 568-5660.