Beat the heat this summer, avoid heat-related illnesses


TAYLOR COUNTY—As temperatures heat up, the risk for heat-related illnesses increases. With the current heatwave sweeping through the area, officials are encouraging residents to know the signs and symptoms, as well as ways to beat the heat.

Heat-related illnesses happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. These ailments occur when body temperature rises quicker than it can be cooled, and in some cases can lead to much bigger issues causing damage to the brain and other vital organs.

But the good news is that they are all preventable conditions. 

Knowing your surroundings, as well as heat indexes and humidity is a key part in prevention. Wearing appropriate clothing, limiting exposure and, of course, drinking plenty of fluids such as water or sports drinks can also help prevent heat-related illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are five main ailments that can occur from too much sun exposure and increased temperatures. Those include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rash and, of course, sunburn.

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion, while similar, possess different traits and require altered reactions.

During heat stroke, a person’s body temperature is increased to at least 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The skin becomes hot and red and can be either dry or damp.

A fast, strong pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and losing consciousness or passing out are all additional characteristics of heat stroke.

Should you or someone around you be experiencing any of the abovementioned symptoms, a call to 911 should be placed immediately, as heat stroke is a medical emergency.

In the meantime, the afflicted person should be moved to a cooler place to help reduce their body temperature. Chilled, damp cloths or even a cool bath could also be used to help lower body temperature.

CDC officials report that in the event of a heat stroke, no food or drink should be given to the individual experiencing symptoms.

Conversely, heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; a fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; tiredness or weakness; dizziness; headache; and fainting.

Again, should someone present those symptoms after prolonged exposure to heat and sunshine, they should be moved to a cool place. The CDC also suggests loosening clothing to allow the body temperature to regulate and return to normal.

Temperate, wet cloths and a cool bath may also be utilized to help reduce body temperature. It is also recommended that those afflicted with heat exhaustion sip water to help restore the appropriate body temperature.

If conditions do not improve within an hour, they get worse or you begin to throw up, seek medical attention right away.

Heat cramps are described as muscle pains or spasms associated with dehydration. These can be brought on by heavy sweating during intense exercise.

Those experiencing heat cramps can alleviate the pain by discontinuing physical activity and moving to a cooler place.

Under certain medical conditions, such as those with heart problems, medical assistance should be sought.

Heat rash is a cluster of red, small blisters that look like pimples on the skin. By staying in a cool, dry place, keeping the rash dry and using powder, such as talc or baby powder, can help soothe the rash.

Sunburns are a common issue during the summer months, caused by too much exposure to the sun without proper preventative measure such as the application of sunblock or moving to a shady area.

Anyone who has had a sunburn knows that they can sometimes be painful, and in the event of too much sun, they can even cause blisters on the skin.

To help alleviate the symptoms of sunburn, individuals can apply aloe vera or moisturizing lotions on the skin and take over the counter anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications.

A cool shower or bath, as well as the application of cool cloths can also help reduce the pain, swelling and warmth associated with the burns. CDC officials advise suffering individuals to stay out of the sun until their burn heals and caution them not to break any blisters that form.

For more information on heat-related illnesses, along with tips to beating the summer heat, be sure to visit www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html.

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