Beat the heat: Tips on keeping cool in hot weather

Saline County Health Department reminds the public to protect themselves in hot summer temperatures. Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. During hot weather health emergencies, keep informed by listening to local weather and news channels. Doing too much on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun, or staying too long in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses. Know the symptoms of heat disorders and overexposure to the sun, and be ready to give first aid treatment.
 According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. When temperatures soar close to 100°F, with excessive humidity leaving you sweltering and sticky, you should be careful to protect both yourself and your loved ones from falling ill due to the heat.

Tips to prevent heat-related Illness

  • Spend more time indoors, if a home is not air-conditioned , spend time in public facilities that are air-conditionedDrink plenty of water.
  • Drink water even if you are not thirsty
  • Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages 
  • Wear loose light colored clothing and sunscreen 
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully; try to schedule activities early in the day or later in the evening 
  • Limit outdoor activities; take frequent breaks to cool off 
  • Monitor people at high risk (elderly, children, pets, etc.) 
  • Eat light meals
  • Check on your neighbors and relatives.

Individuals at high risk for heat-related Illness
People who are at highest risk are the elderly, people taking certain medications, the very young, and people with mental illnesses and chronic diseases. Check on family, friends, and neighbors without air conditioning, including the elderly who are more vulnerable to falling ill due to the heat. Never leave your child or pet unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down. Ensure your pets have free access to fresh drinking water and are not suffering due to the heat.
Child Safety Tips

  • Check to make sure seating surfaces and equipment (child safety seat and safety belt buckles) aren't too hot when securing your child in a safety restraint system in a car that has been parked in the heat.
  • Never leave your child or pet unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks -- even at home -- and keep keys out of children's reach. 
  • Always make sure all child passengers have left the car when you reach your destination.
  • Don't overlook sleeping infants.

Heat-related illnesses
Studies indicate that, other things being equal, the severity of heat disorders tend to increase with age--heat cramps in a 17-year-old may be heat exhaustion in someone 40, and heat stroke in a person over 60.

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children.

Recognizing Heat Rash

  • Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.

What to Do

  • The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected area dry. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort. Treating heat rash is simple and usually does not require medical assistance.

Sun burn

Sunburn should be avoided because it damages the skin. Although the discomfort is usually minor and healing often occurs in about a week, more severe sunburn may require medical attention. Proper sun protection practices such as using sunscreen and wearing appropriate clothing can reduce a person’s risk for developing skin cancer.

Recognizing Sunburn

  • Symptoms of sunburn are well known: the skin becomes red, painful, and abnormally warm after sun exposure.

What to Do
Consult a doctor if the sunburn affects an infant younger than 1 year of age or if these symptoms are present:
o    Fever
o    Fluid-filled blisters
o    Severe pain
o    Also, remember these tips when treating sunburn:
o    Avoid repeated sun exposure
o    Apply cold compresses or immerse the sunburned area in cool water.
o    Apply moisturizing lotion to affected areas. Do not use salve, butter, or ointment.
o    Do not break blisters
Heat Cramps

Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture. The low salt level in the muscles may be the cause of heat cramps. Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.

Recognizing Heat Cramps

  • Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms-usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs-that may occur in association with strenuous activity. If you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps.

What to Do
o    Stop all activity, and sit quietly in a cool place.
o    Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.
o    Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside, because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
o    Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in 1 hour.
Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. It is the body’s response to an excessive loss of the water and salt contained in sweat. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.

Recognizing Heat Exhaustion
Warning signs of heat exhaustion include the following:
o    Heavy sweating
o    Paleness
o    Muscle cramps
o    Tiredness
o    Weakness
o    Dizziness
o    Headache
o    Nausea or vomiting
The skin may be cool and moist. The victim’s pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke. Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following occurs:
o    Symptoms are severe
o    The victim has heart problems or high blood pressure
o    Otherwise, help the victim to cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour.
What to Do
Cooling measures that may be effective include the following:
o    Cool, nonalcoholic beverages
o    Rest
o    Cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
o    An air-conditioned environment
o    Lightweight clothing
Heat stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include the following:
o    An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)
o    Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating);
o    Rapid, strong pulse;
o    Throbbing headache;
o    Dizziness;
o    Nausea;
o    Confusion;
o    Unconsciousness
If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim. Do the following:
o    Get the victim to a shady area.
o    Cool the victim rapidly, using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
o    Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F.
o    If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
o    Do not give the victim anything to drink.
o    Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
o    Sometimes a victim’s muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself by moving objects around the victim.