Summer has officially arrived! Warm air! Beaches! Lemonade! While enjoying the many wonderful things that summer brings, we also have to remember the dangers that come with the heat of the sun!
Every year, more then 100,000 individuals seek the care of a local Emergency Room or physician for a heat-related illness. But more alarming is that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive heat exposure caused 3,442 deaths in the United States between the years of 1999 and 2003.
A heat-related illness is a medical condition that is caused by prolonged or intense exposure to hot temperatures. Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. An individual suffers a heat-related illness when the body’s normal temperature control system is unable to regulate its internal temperature. Naturally, our body cools itself through sweating, however, overtime of intense exposure of heat, this mechanism becomes less effective and the person’s body temperature rises quickly.
Individuals most at risk of a heat-related illness are:
- Young children
- Older adults
- Persons with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or low blood pressure
Heat-related illnesses vary according to severity and are classified according to symptoms:
Can occur after a brief exposure to heat. Symptoms include warm, red skin with a ‘prickly rash’. Treatment includes placing the person in a cool room and encouraging plenty of water intake.
Can occur after a long period in the heat or after a short period in extreme heat. Symptoms include muscle cramps, hot, flushed skin, anxious, headache, weakness, and confusion. Treatment includes immediately moving the person to a cool room, removing clothing that is unnecessary, applying cool, wet towels to the skin and encouraging plenty of fluid intake. If symptoms do not subside, seek medical care immediately.
Is a LIFE-THREATENING emergency. 911 should be called immediately. While waiting for help, the individual should be immediately moved to a cool room and cool, wet towels should be applied to the skin. If the person can drink, allow them to drink cool fluids. Symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, high body temperature, lack of sweating, and shallow breathing.
It is important to enjoy summer, but it is also important to enjoy it safely! The best defense is prevention. Before going out into the summer sun and heat, prepare yourself:
- Drink plenty of fluids prior to your outing
- Wear light, cool clothing
- Rest often in a cooler, shaded area