(Niagara County Health Department) As we move towards summer, the temperatures begin to rise along with the humidity, and can cause serious heat-related illnesses. Heat-related illnesses occur when the body is unable to cool itself through perspiration. People who are more susceptible to heat- related illness are young children, seniors, people who are overweight, people with respiratory diseases or chronic medical conditions, and people who work outdoors. Since certain medications may cause a sun or heat sensitivity, it is always wise to check with your pharmacist regarding medication precautions.
The most serious heat-related illness is heat stroke, also referred to as sun stroke. Heat stroke is a medical emergency, and 911 should be called immediately. Signs and symptoms include hot, dry and red skin, a rapid pulse, a body temperature above 105 degrees, loss of alertness, confusion, unconsciousness, or rapid, shallow breathing. While waiting for medical assistance to arrive, move the person to a cool shady place, and apply wet sponges. Wrapped ice packs may be placed on the neck, wrists, ankles or armpits to help cool the body.
Heat exhaustion is often caused by overexertion in hot or humid temperatures. It can quickly lead to heat stroke. Symptoms include heavy sweating, fainting, and vomiting, cold, pale and clammy skin, dizziness, headaches, nausea and weakness. Move the person to a cool place, loosen clothing and apply cool wet cloths to the neck, face and arms. Water can be given every 15 minutes. However, if the condition worsens, medical attention may be warranted.
A person experiencing muscle cramps in the abdominal area or extremities is likely suffering heat cramps. Signs and symptoms include heavy sweating and mild nausea. Move the person to a cool area and provide cool water.
A heat rash is the least serious heat-related illness. Heat rash may appear as a red cluster of pimples or small blisters after exposure to high temperatures or humidity. Moving the person to a cool area and keeping the affected skin dry is recommended.
Although many of us crave the warm weather, it is always advisable to be cautious when the temperature and humidity rises. Some of the recommendations to reduce the likelihood of experiencing a heat-related illness include:
· Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing
· Stay out of the sun as much as possible, especially between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest
· Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
· Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks
· Wear sunscreen even if it is cloudy outside
· Take cool showers or baths to beat the heat and help keep body temperatures at safe levels
· Never leave a child, pet or individual with special needs in a parked car for any amount of time; temperatures inside a car can rise to dangerous levels within minutes.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses can help you enjoy a safe and health summer!