When summer is in full swing, the heat is blistering at times, it makes sense to take the adequate measures to prevent heat illness, dehydration and the damaging effects they can bring. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that between 1979 and 2003, 8015 people succumbed from excessive heat exposure. That was more deaths during the same period in this country than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.
Heat related illness happens when the body cannot cool itself properly and the body becomes over-heated. Generally sweating cools the body but when it is not sufficient, damage to the brain and other internal organs can occur. Although everyone is susceptible to extreme heat, special attention should be paid to/by those who are dehydrated, older, obese, have a fever, have heart disease, are mentally ill, have poor circulation, are sunburned, use prescription drugs or alcohol.
Healthy and young people participating in strenuous activity should exercise caution as well. When temperatures are high remember to keep cool and follow these suggestions from the CDC:
Increase fluid intake during hot weather; drink 8 ounces. of fluid (not alcohol) every 15 minutes.
Replace salt and minerals lost during sweating by consuming a sports drink, most contain the minerals you’ll lose from sweating.
Limit outdoor activity to early morning or evening if possible; if not take breaks in the shade to allow your body’s thermostat to recover.
Pace yourself while performing outdoor activities, if you become faint, lightheaded, weak or confused get to a cool area or at least some shade and rest.
Stay cool indoors as well; if you don’t have air-conditioning go to a public place that does such as a mall or public library or call the health department to find the nearest cooling shelter.
Check on those who are more susceptible to extreme heat (infants and children, people older than 65, obese individuals, and the physically and mentally ill) at least twice a day. If they live alone, go by and check on them.
Gradually adjust to the environment: if it suddenly becomes hot take it easy, if you travel to a region with warmer weather than you’re accustomed to give yourself a few days to become acclimated to the heat.
Do not leave children or pets in the car unattended. Temperatures can rise very quickly in the first 10 minutes even with the windows down. Before leaving your car check to make sure everyone is out.
Wear appropiate clothing and sunscreen when venturing outdoors: light-weight, light-colored loose fitting clothes are best. Also use a sunscreen (15 SPF or higher) to protect exposed skin. Wearing sunglasses and a wide brim hat can provide protection from the sun’s rays as well.
Use common sense; avoid hot and heavy meals that can increase the body temperature, replace fluids and minerals with appropriate fluids, dress infants in light weight, light colored clothing and remember to protect their heads from the sun as well. Make sure to give pets plenty of fresh water as well!