Well it’s finally here … the HOT weather we expect since we live in Arizona. It may be here a bit earlier this year than in years past, but it is here nonetheless. With the heat and hot weather in mind this is a good time to refresh what we know about heat and how it can affect our health.
Did you know there are three levels of heat related health issues? While some are mild as they progress with no intervention, they can potentially become life-threatening.
Before we get into the levels of a heat-related illness, what causes a heat-related illness? A heat-related illness is caused when the body is not able to properly cool itself. Normally the body cools itself by sweating during extreme heat or physical exertion. A high body temperature can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.
So, who is most at risk for developing a heat-related illness? Older adults, the very young, and people with chronic diseases. Some factors, but not all, that might increase your risk of developing a heat-related illness include things like:
• High levels of humidity
• Heart disease
• Mental illness
• Poor circulation
• Prescription or illegal drug use
• Alcohol use
It is not only those with existing health issues who may be affected by high heat and temperatures. Young and healthy people can be affected if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.
So, what can you do to help you and your family stay cool? Try these suggestions:
• Wear appropriate clothing. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
• Stay cool indoors. Stay in air-conditioning as much as possible. A fan can help provide comfort but they aren’t effective when the temperatures are in the high 90’s. Take a cool shower or bath.
• Schedule outdoor activities carefully.
• Pace yourself. Cut down on exercise during times of high heat.
• Wear sunscreen. Use “Broad Spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection”.
• DO NOT leave kids or pets in hot cars! Temperatures in a vehicle can climb to life-threatening levels in a relatively short time.
• Stay hydrated. Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. If your physician has you on medication for water retention, check with your doctor on how much water you should consume.
• 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.
• Make sure you also keep your pets hydrated!! Leave them bowls of cool, clean water.
While everyone can experience a heat-related illness the most susceptible groups are the very young, the elderly and those with certain medical conditions. When a heat wave hits always check on elderly neighbors and family members, keep children indoors, check on anyone you know who has a heat-sensitive illness. NEVER HESITATE to call 9-1-1 if you have any doubt about a person’s condition.
Want or need more information on a safety topic? Contact AZ Safety Solutions at (520) 838-4508 or via email at: email@example.com.
AZ Safety Solutions is firefighter/EMT owned safety education company dedicated to providing the community we serve the very best in safety education. Our instructors have a combined 85(+) years of field emergency response and teaching experience.
Article written by Karen Hauca.