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Extreme heat comes with dangers PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, June 27, 2013 11:57 PM

BY STEPHANIE GROVES

Staff Writer

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DELPHOS— The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Heat Awareness Day, today, is a public awareness campaign for citizens to understand the dangers of extreme heat, to know the signs of heat emergencies and to know how to stay safe during extreme heat conditions.

Every summer, many people fall prey to the sun and heat. With the extreme temperatures forecasted for the region in the upcoming weeks, it is critical people exercise preventative measures to eliminate life-threatening heat-related illnesses.

According to NOAA, 155 people died as a result of extreme heat in 2012, well above the 10-year average heat-related fatalities of 119. Extreme heat strongly affects adults age 50 and over with 117 deaths (75 percent), with 99 males (64 percent) and 56 females (36 percent).

Community Health Professionals, Inc. (CHP) Nursing Supervisor Amy Zalar, R.N., explained the elderly have a harder time adjusting to the heat usually due to underlying medical conditions or taking medications which affect their bodies ability to cool.

Extreme heat is also dangerous for children younger than 4, people with mental illnesses and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes. Zalar explained that children’s bodies adjust more slowly to the heat and being able to cool down. Kid’s usually don’t recognize the signs to monitor for complications.

“Patients with mental illness may not be able to recognize signs of heat exhaustion or be able to understand what is going on, “ Zalar reasoned.

Diabetics often have the inability to adequately sweat to cool their body, along with taking medications that affect the bodies ability to cool.

“Dehydration can occur when blood sugars are elevated,” Zalar detailed. “ Diabetics should monitor blood sugar more regularly when in the heat and drink plenty of water.”

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature; the bodies temperature rises rapidly, loses its ability to sweat and it is unable to cool down. Human body temperatures can 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.

“With overheating sometimes the body is unable to cool off to lower the bodies’ core temperature,“ Zalar said.

Signs of heat stroke include the following warning signs; an extremely high body temperature (above 103°F); red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating); rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; and nausea.

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.

Warning signs vary but may include the following; heavy sweating; paleness; muscle cramps; tiredness; weakness; dizziness; headache; nausea or vomiting; fainting; the skin may be cool and moist; the pulse rate can be fast and weak; and breathing will be fast and shallow.

To prevent heat-related illnesses, Zalar recommends drinking plenty of water to re-hydrate and to avoid caffeine and alcohol.

“Wear cool, light-colored, light-weight, loose-fitting clothing,” Zalar said adamantly. “Stay in the shade when possible and avoid being outside in direct sun at the hottest part of the day, usually between 1-4 p.m.”

In addition, Zalar strongly recommends people wear a hat, sunglasses and sun screen while outside.

To help protect elderly relatives and neighbors from heat-related illness, visit older adults at risk at least twice a day and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Encourage them to increase their fluid intake by drinking cool, nonalcoholic beverages regardless of their activity level. Take them to air-conditioned locations if they have transportation problems.

When dealing with any sign of severe heat stress, it is considered a life-threatening emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while getting the person to a shady area and beginning the cooling process. Cool the person rapidly, using whatever methods available. For example, immerse the person in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the person with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the person in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously. Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101°–102°F.

If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.

 

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