It’s getting hot in here…and outside! As the summer season approaches, let us be aware of the potential dangers of extreme heat. According to the National Weather Service, “heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more heat-related illnesses. In order to prevent these life-threatening conditions, it is important to be knowledgeable about our limits.

When the body is exposed to hot temperatures, sweating occurs to cool the body. When the body heats more quickly than it can cool itself, heat exhaustion may occur. Signs include heavy sweating, weakness, pale and cold skin, weak pulse, nausea, and dizziness. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, lie down in a cool area, loosen clothes, apply cool cloths to the head and body, and drink cool fluids. Without treatment, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.

Heat stroke, a life-threatening medical emergency, is characterized by altered mental status, body temperature of 104ºF, rapid and strong pulse, hot red skin, and possible unconsciousness. Call 911 immediately if you or someone you know experiences these symptoms. Move the person to a cooler environment and spray or pour cool water on the victim. Cover with a cool wet sheet or if possible, submerge the victim in cool water up to the neck.

Did You Know?

  • An Excessive Heat Watch is issued by the National Weather Service when heat indices in excess of 105ºF during the day, or 80 ºF during the night.
  • Sweat removes salt and minerals from the body, which are necessary for basic functions.
  • Very high body temperature may damage the brain and other organs.
  • With early recognition and cooling, survival rate of heat stroke victims approaches 90% (ASHI).

Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses

  1. Unless restricted by your physician, drink more fluids, especially water, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink.
  2. When possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, spend a few hours at the shopping mall or public library.
  3. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  4. Never leave anyone – person or pet – in a closed, parked vehicle.
  5. Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. Exercise indoors when the outside temperature is too hot and the air quality is poor.

Sources: HealthFinder, National Weather Service, American Safety & Health Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LifeWork Strategies EAP, and Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For medical advice, consult your physician. Feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.