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Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer Safety: Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke



In planning for my posts for July & August, I've thought of a variety of topics having to do with safety. And since I try to make the posts relevant to the calendar and have the majority of the posts sort of build on one another or be on a common theme, I decided to make this week Summer Safety Week.

I'm starting with some information on heat stroke and heat exhaustion. As I child and as an adult, I've had heat exhaustion myself. As a kid, I wasn't aware of what it was. But basically whenever I went outside for a long period of time, whether we were at a park, a ball game, minature golf, or just anywhere, I would suddenly become ill, and as a result we'd all have to go home. Even now, my husband and I go outside and play disc golf, and I have to be very careful about what I eat before we go, I can never go on an empty stomach, and I have to stay hydrated. And unless we go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, (after 5pm or later) I won't be able to stay out for a long period of time without getting ill.

Luckily in the past I've come inside to rest before all the symptoms hit me, so I never actually had to go to the doctor, but a friend of my husband actually went to the hospital for this just last year. And with our humid climate and our heat index often being 100 degrees or higher in the middle of summer, we have a lot of heat exhaustion and heat stroke cases, some of which result in death. So it is definitely a topic to be informed about & to take seriously.

Who can get heat exhaustion or heat stroke? Anybody and everybody. But small children and the elderly are most likely to get it. And whenever you get it once, you are more susceptible to getting it again.

Symptoms:

Heat Exhaustion:
severe thirst
muscle weakness
nausea, sometimes vomiting
fast, shallow breathing
irritability
headache
increased sweating
cool, clammy skin
elevation of body temperature to more than 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius)

Heatstroke:
severe, throbbing headache
weakness, dizziness, or confusion
difficulty breathing
decreased responsiveness or loss of consciousness
may not be sweating
flushed, hot, dry skin
elevation of body temperature to 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) or higher

Treatment:
Go indoors immediately. If you cannot go inside immediate have a seat in the shade.
If you are having heat exhaustion/stroke symptoms, don't drive. And don't let others who are experiencings the symptoms drive.
Take off clothing.
Lie down and elevate feet slightly.
Get into a bath of cool water or sponge yourself off. You may also apply cold rags or ice packs. In extreme cases, get in an ice bath.
If treating a child, place the child (if conscious) in a cool bath or sponge-bathe the child repeatedly. If outside, spray the child with mist from a garden hose.
Drink plenty of fluids. You should drink water, juice, or sports drinks. I also remember hearing that Pedialite was good because of the electrolytes it contains. (avoid drinks carbonated beverages, drinks containing caffiene, and alcohol.)
If you are treating a child who is vomiting, turn his or her body to the side to prevent choking.
Keep temperature monitored.
**If the person has a temperature of 104 degrees or higher, you could call 911 immediately. If you suspect the person has heat stroke, treat them while waiting for paramedics to arrive.


Prevention:
Avoid being out in the extreme heat, especially for an extended period of time.
Drink plenty of water and other fluids before going outside and while outside.
Wear clothing that is light in color and loose fitting. Wear hats.
If outside, stay in shaded areas.
Stay in an Air-Conditioned Environment if possible.
If you're home isn't air conditioned, go somewhere that is, and if you have air conditioning turn it on! (last year a woman in our area died from heat stroke in her home. She had air conditioning, but she didn't have it on b/c she didn't want her electric bill to go up.)
If you have an elderly relative, friend, or neighbor, check on them frequently, and make sure they are keeping their home cool and avoiding the heat.
Do all yard work in the early morning or at the very end of the day (after 5 pm) to avoid getting over heated.
If you work in the heat, take breaks often, and go inside for your breaks if possible.
Avoid running, bike riding, and other strenuous exercise in the middle of the day.
If outside in the middle of the day, pace yourself to preserve your energy. (Don't run when you can walk. Etc.)
Eat small meals, and eat frequently. Avoid eating foods high in protein, as this increases Metabolic Heat and increases Water Loss.
**At first sign of any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, get out of the heat immediately. Don't try to wait it out. If you are outside with anyone else, let them know what is going on so that they can treat you if necessary.






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