Dangers Of Extreme Heat

Sunday, July 15th 2007, 3:22 pm
By: News On 6

It’s time for fun in the summer sun, but the sun can be dangerous. Your body can be affected by extreme heat. People suffer heat related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate for the heat and properly cool themselves. The body cools itself by sweating, but in some instances, sweating isn't enough! When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat fast enough. In these cases, a person's body temperature rises rapidly, and very high body temperatures can damage the brain or other vital organs.

Because heat-related deaths can be prevented, there are several tips to keep in mind when being exposed to extreme heat.

  1. Avoid strenuous outdoor activities during the peak sun hours, which are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  2. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing

  3. Wear sunscreen

  4. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and limiting alcoholic and sugary beverages. Alcohol and sugar can cause you to lose more body fluid.

  5. Stay cool by staying indoors. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library.

  6. Monitor those at high risk- especially the young, elderly, physically ill and your pets.

  7. NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle. Temperatures in a vehicle rise rapidly on sunny days.

It doesn't take long for high temperatures to cause serious health problems. Staying out too long in the sun, doing too much on a hot day or staying too long in an overheated place can be hazardous to your health.

Heat stroke is another danger of the outdoors. It occurs when the body is not able to regulate its temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, sometimes up to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

The most important measures to prevent heat strokes are to avoid becoming dehydrated, and to avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather.

Warning signs of heat stroke may include the following:
  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)

  • Red, hot, dry skin

  • Rapid, strong pulse

  • Throbbing headache

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Confusion

  • Unconsciousness

  • Victims of heat stroke must receive immediate medical treatment to avoid permanent organ damage. While waiting for help, you should cool the victim by getting them to a shady area, removing their clothing and applying cool or tepid water to the skin. You should also fan the victim to promote sweating and evaporation.

    A person enjoying a day out in the garden, or an afternoon at the pool could suffer from heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is a more moderate form of heat-related illnesses. It is the body's response to losing too much water and salt contained in sweat. It can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and unbalanced replacement of fluids.

  • Warning signs of heat exhaustion include:
  • Heavy sweating

  • Paleness

  • Muscle cramps

  • Tiredness

  • Weakness

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Fainting

  • Left untreated, heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke. If symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour, seek medical attention immediately.

    Another heat ailment is heat cramps. Heat Cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating reduces the body's salt and moisture, and the low salt level in the muscles may be the cause of heat cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.

    Heat cramps occur as muscle pains or spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs. They usually improve with rest, drinking water, and a cool environment.
    If you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps.

    For more on heat related illnesses visit the Center for Disease Control's website.