August 1, 2012
Summer Time and the Livin’ is Easy
By: Vanessa Withee, FNP, Parish Nurse
Summer is officially here! Those of us who live in the San Joaquin Valley know about heat. But what we might not know is how to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. So here’s a short, but clear, explanation of what heat illnesses are and how to keep from getting them.
is a heat-related illness that occurs after you've been exposed to high temperatures for several days or you have developed dehydration
, which is an inadequate or imbalanced replacement of the fluids and electrolytes
you've lost through excessive perspiration.
There are two types of heat exhaustion:
What To Do:
Water depletion. Signs include excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and even loss of consciousness.
Salt depletion. Signs include nausea and vomiting, frequent muscle cramps, and dizziness, and confusion.
Other symptoms include: dark-colored urine (which indicates dehydration), fainting, fatigue, pale skin, profuse sweating, and a rapid heartbeat.
If you or anyone else has symptoms of heat exhaustion, it's essential to immediately get out of the heat and rest, preferably in an air-conditioned environment. If you can't get inside, try to find the nearest cool and shady place. Try to take their temperature to make sure they aren’t having heat stroke.
Other recommended strategies include:
Some of those who have heat exhaustion can go on to develop symptoms of heat stroke suddenly and rapidly without warning. Infants, the elderly, athletes, and outdoor workers are at the greatest risk for developing heat stroke.
Drink plenty of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages.
Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing and apply cooling measures such as fans or ice towels.
Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
If such measures fail to provide relief within 30 minutes, contact a doctor because untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.
is an abnormally elevated body temperature (hyperthermia) that has a certain set of physical symptoms.
Unlike heat exhaustion, heat stroke is a life threatening emergency which is often fatal if not treated properly or quickly.
High body temperature (often 104 degrees F and higher), the absence of sweating, hot red or flushed dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, strange behavior, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, disorientation, seizures, and coma.
Symptoms of heat stroke can sometimes mimic those of heart attack or other conditions.
How can heat stroke be prevented?
Always notify emergency services (911) immediately. If their arrival is delayed, they can give you further instructions for treatment of the victim.
Get the victim to a shady area, remove clothing, apply cool water to the skin (for example you may spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose), fan the victim to promote sweating and evaporation, and place ice packs under armpits and groin.
If the person is able to drink liquids, have them drink cool water or other cool beverages (NO alcohol / caffeine).
Monitor body temperature with a thermometer and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101 to 102 degrees F (38.3 to 38.8 C).
The most important measures are to avoid becoming dehydrated and to avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather. If you have to perform physical activities, drink plenty of fluids (such as water and sports drinks). But avoid alcohol, caffeine
(including soft drinks and tea which may lead to dehydration
). Take frequent breaks to hydrate yourself. Wear hats and light-colored, lightweight, loose clothes.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER leave infants, children, or pets in an unattended or a locked car.
Enjoy the summer. Kick off your shoes. Have a cold drink.
But make sure your loved ones are safe.