Heat Related Illness: What you need to know

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It’s getting hot in North Dakota and with temperatures set to reach the 100s this weekend, residents need to be aware of heat-related illnesses.

Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body is unable to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat, this might not be enough. In these cases, a person’s body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. This can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.

Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Despite this, around 618 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year. 

Some factors that might increase your risk of developing a heat-related illness include:

High levels of humidity–Obesity–Fever–Dehydration–Prescription drug use–Heart disease–Mental illness–Poor circulation–Sunburn–Alcohol use

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies five heat-related illnesses to be on the lookout for and what to do if you or someone you know starts showing symptoms:

HEAT STROKE

What To Look For:

High body temperature (103°F or higher)

Hot, red, dry or damp skin

Fast, strong pulse

Headache

Dizziness

Nausea

Confusion

Losing consciousness (passing out)

What To Do:

Call 911 right away-heat stroke is a medical emergency

Move the person to a cooler place

Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath

Do not give the person anything to drink

HEAT EXHAUSTION

What To Look For:

Heavy sweating

Cold, pale, and clammy skin

Fast, weak pulse

Nausea or vomiting

Muscle cramps

Tiredness or weakness

Dizziness

Headache

Fainting (passing out)

What To Do:

Move to a cool place

Loosen your clothes

Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath

Sip water

Get Medical Help Right Away If:

You are throwing up

Your symptoms get worse

Your symptoms last longer than 1 hour

HEAT CRAMPS

What To Look For:

Heavy sweating during intense exercise

Muscle pain or spasms

What To Do:

Stop physical activity and move to a cool place

Drink water or a sports drink

Wait for cramps to go away before you do any more physical activity

Get Medical Help Right Away If:

Cramps last longer than 1 hour

You’re on a low-sodium diet

You have heart problems

SUNBURN

What To Look For:

Painful, red, and warm skin

Blisters on the skin

What To Do:

Stay out of the sun until your sunburn heals

Put cool cloths on sunburned areas or take a cool bath

Put moisturizing lotion on sunburned areas

Do not break blisters

HEAT RASH

What To Look For:

Red clusters of small blisters that look like pimples on the skin (usually on the neck, chest, groin, or in elbow creases)

What To Do:

Stay in a cool, dry place

Keep the rash dry

Use powder (like baby powder) to soothe the rash

TIPS FOR PREVENTING HEAT-RELATED ILLNESSES

Stay Cool

Wear Appropriate Clothing: Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Stay Cool Indoors: Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

Keep In Mind: Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, they will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully: Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest, like morning and evening hours. Rest often in shady areas so that your body has a chance to recover.

Pace Yourself: Cut down on exercise during the heat. If you’re not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.

Wear Sunscreen: Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions. Look for sunscreens that say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels as these products work best.

Do Not Leave Children in Cars: Cars can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, even with a window cracked open. While anyone left in a parked car is at risk, children are especially at risk of getting a heat stroke or dying. When traveling with children, remember to do the following:

  • Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
  • To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.
  • When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.

Avoid Hot and Heavy Meals: They add heat to your body!

Stay Hydrated

Drink Plenty of Fluids: Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot. Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Replace Salt and Minerals: Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.

Keep Your Pets Hydrated: Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area.

Stay Informed

Check for Updates: Keep up with KX News for extreme heat alerts and safety tips and to learn about any cooling shelters in the area.

Know the Signs: Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to treat them.

Use a Buddy System: When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

Monitor Those at High Risk: Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others.

WHO IS MOST AT RISK?

Older adults, the very young and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy people can be affected if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

Summertime activity, whether on the playing field or the construction site, must be balanced with actions that help the body cool itself to prevent heat-related illness. Use this website to learn more on how to stay safe in the heat this summer, including how to prevent, recognize, and cope with heat-related illness.

The CDC recommends visiting at-risk adults 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.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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