Summer Health Hazards: Heat-related Illnesses and Prevention

Every year in the United States, an average of 658 deaths occur as a result of extreme heat with children, the elderly, outside laborers and chronic illness sufferers being the most at risk. As we approach the hottest time of the year in the Valley, it’s important to know the risks and dangers associated with rising temperatures.

Heat Exhaustion

When someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, they’ll often experience physical weakness and heavy sweating. You may notice that their skin is cold and clammy and pale in color. They’ll often have a fast, weak pulse and may have nausea or vomiting. If you notice any of these symptoms, try moving the person to a cooler area, have them sip water and attempt to bring the body temperature down by removing extra clothing. If they exhibit vomiting that persists, you should seek medical attention.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is more severe and it is considered a medical emergency. A person experiencing heat stroke will have a high temperature (above 103O) and could become unconscious. Unlike with heat exhaustion, their skin will appear red and moist, and will be hot to the touch. They will also have a fast and strong pulse. If you or someone you know begins exhibiting these symptoms, you should call 911 and try to move the person to a cooler environment to bring down their body temperature.

Proactive Prevention

There are steps you can take to avoid the heat risks. One of the most important things to remember is to stay hydrated. Even if you regularly drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day, extreme heat means you should be drinking even more. Aim to drink two to four cups of water every hour, especially if you are working or exercising outside. If you have young children, make sure to keep them drinking water and try to avoid giving drinks containing high amounts of sugar. Remember that thirst is a sign of dehydration, so try to avoid waiting until you feel thirsty before drinking.

According to a report released by the CDC, 69 percent of heat-related deaths occur in the home and 91 percent of those homes lack air conditioning. Try not to rely on a fan as your sole source for cooling down and stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If you aren’t able to find air-conditioned shelter, try taking cool showers or baths to lower your body temperature. Remember to wear lightweight clothing and try to avoid wearing dark colors, especially outside.

If you have family members that are part of the most at-risk groups, it’s a good idea to check on them frequently, at least twice a day. If you have neighbors that live alone or are elderly, try to check in with them and make sure they’re keeping cool and hydrated.

Heat-related illnesses are entirely preventable by taking the right precautionary measures. Remember to keep hydrated and cool while also keeping an eye out for warning signs, especially in children, the elderly and those suffering from chronic illness.

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