Each year in the United States, as many as 400 deaths are attributed to excessive natural heat. Many of the deaths are preventable.
Genesis Medical Center emergency physician, Dr. David Dierks, offers these tips to avoid being a victim of the heat:
• Stay out of the heat when possible. The young and old are particularly vulnerable. People with other chronic conditions, for example, heart disease, mental health conditions, asthma and high blood pressure, are at higher risk for heat illnesses.
• Make certain you don’t leave small children or pets in a vehicle. Temperatures can rise quickly to fatal ranges. One tip is to put something vital to your day in the back seat with a child, including a phone, a shoe or work materials.
• If you don’t have air conditioning in your home, visit friends or relatives, go to a cool public place such as a shopping area or the library. You are welcome to visit the Genesis Medical Center campuses for relief.
• Eat smaller meals, but eat more frequently.
• Check on elderly and sick friends, neighbors and relatives several times a day during a hot spell. Invite them to your home if you are concerned about their safety.
• Drink plenty of water, particularly when exercising or working outdoors. One guideline is eight ounces of water for every 20 minutes of outdoor activity.
• When possible, complete outdoor work either early in the day or late in the day.
• If you go out to walk, jog or bike, take a "buddy" so that if you get into trouble, help is close by.
• Avoid alcohol and caffeine drinks. Both act as diuretics and speed up the loss of fluid.
• Make sure children take breaks from outdoor activity. Take a break from outside activity during the hottest part of the day to play games or watch a movie together inside.
• Take care of your skin if you are outdoors. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and wear a wide-brimmed hat. Reapply sunscreen frequently, especially if you are swimming.
• Seek shade or air conditioning if you begin to feel dizzy or nauseous.
• Seek medical treatment immediately if you are disoriented, have a high body temperature, are vomiting or have stopped perspiring.
What to Watch For
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Body temperature may be normal or is likely to be rising.
Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, red skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be 105 degrees F or higher. If the person was sweating from heavy work or exercise, skin may be wet; otherwise, it will feel dry.