It's hot out there!
With the extreme heat that is occurring and the possibility of more to come, it is important for everyone to prepare for this weather by taking steps to avoid heat-related illnesses. Extreme heat events can cause a range of health problems from relatively minor health issues, such as a heat rash, to life-threatening conditions, such as heat stroke and death. Heat exhaustion is the most common heat-related illness. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, thirst, fatigue, headache, nausea, visual disturbances, weakness, anxiety, confusion, and vomiting. Cooling measures that may be effective include: cool beverages, cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned environment. Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour. Untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Symptoms of heat stroke include an extremely high body temperature (above 103°F), rapid breathing, racing heart rate, throbbing headache, nausea, confusion, unconsciousness, and red, hot, and dry skin. If any of these signs are present, call for immediate medical assistance and begin to cool the victim by getting the person to a shady area and sponging the person with cool water. Do not give the victim fluids to drink. While everyone is susceptible to illnesses due to extreme heat, certain populations may be especially vulnerable to health effects from extreme heat events, including people with pre-existing medical conditions, the very young (less than 5 years old), the elderly (older than 65), the poor and homeless, and obese individuals. Other things that can increase the risk from extreme heat events include living alone (especially the elderly), having prolonged exposure to the sun (construction workers), consuming alcohol, living in an urban area (heat island effect), not having access to air conditioning, and living in a top floor apartment. The following steps can help reduce the risk of health problems during an extreme heat event: o Use air conditioning or spend time in air-conditioned locations. o Take a cool bath or shower. o Minimize direct exposure to the sun. o Limit your time outdoors as much as possible; take frequent breaks if you must be outside. o Increase fluid intake during hot weather, regardless of activity level. Don’t wait until thirsty to drink. It is recommended that during heavy exercise in hot weather, drink two to four glasses of cool fluids each hour. o Don’t drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar – these actually cause more loss of body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks as they may cause stomach cramps. o Wear loose fitting, light-colored clothes. o Check on your neighbors, friends and family members – especially those who are older and /or with health issues. o Do not leave children or pets unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows rolled down, even for a few minutes. It’s hot out there! Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. Staying cool and making simple changes in your fluid intake, activities, and clothing during hot weather can help you to remain safe and healthy. For additional information, check the Minnesota Department of Health website http://www.health.state.mn.us/ and search for Hot Weather or go directly to http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/emergency/natural/heat/index.html