Avoiding heat related illness

The mercury is soaring and the humidex is making the temperature of 35C feel like 40C!

What can we do to cool down and avoid heat related illnesses such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

Dehydration occurs when the body does not have enough fluids due to lack of intake or excess loss through excessive sweating.

Heat exhaustion is also called heat prostration. The symptoms include faintness, rapid pulse, nausea, profuse sweating, cool skin, and collapse. It is caused by prolonged exposure to heat accompanied by loss of adequate fluid and salt in the body mainly through excessive sweating.

Heat stroke occurs when there is a disruption in temperature regulating mechanisms of the body caused by overexposure to excessive heat. Symptoms are more severe than in heat exhaustion and include fever, hot and dry skin, and rapid pulse. Occasionally this leads to delirium and coma.

The best defense is prevention!

Stay hydrated: Don’t wait until you are thirsty. No matter how inactive you are be sure to drink fluids such as water, fruit juice or sports drinks to stay properly hydrated. Avoid alcoholic beverages which dehydrate you. Although very cold drinks are tempting they may cause stomach cramping.

Avoid the sun: Minimize activities outdoors to the early morning or late evening hours. Stay in the shade if outdoors as much as possible. Stay indoors during the heat of the day, preferably in an air conditioned building.

Cool down: For those without air conditioning make a trip to your local shopping mall or library. Spending a few hours in an air conditioned building helps lower your body temperature.

Use a fan. A fan provides some comfort but if temperatures exceed 30C a fan alone will not cool you properly. Use a washcloth to moisten your forehead and back then sit in front of the fan. You body temperature will lower as the water evaporates. Try placing a bowl of ice in front of the fan to blow cooler air on yourself. Better yet take a cool shower or bath to keep cool.

Wear light weight (preferably cotton), light colour, loose fitting clothing.

NEVER leave anyone in a closed parked, vehicle including pets. When it is 30C outside the temperature inside a car with the window slightly open can soar to 45C within 10 minutes. In 30 minutes temperatures reach 50C.

Although any one can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:

  • Infants and young children
  • People aged 65 or older
  • People who have a mental illness
  • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

    Enjoy the hot weather!

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