It happens every year in the South. After a lovely spring, I walk outside one day and start choking on the humidity in the air, my hair poufs out about 11 sizes and I'm covered in what I tell myself is a "dewy summer glow", but in reality is just sweat upon sweat. Yes, summer has arrived, and with it comes high temperatures and blazing humidity levels. It's enough to make you long for the days of last year when people kept challenging you to pour buckets of ice water on yourself for charity. Ice bucket challenge for my sanity and comfort, anyone?
Joking aside, these long summer days can be dangerously hot. Pets, the elderly, young, sick or overweight can be especially susceptible to extreme temperatures. We all need to take extra precautions to beat the heat and avoid the 3 most common heat related illnesses.
Extreme Heat Safety Tips:
- Don't leave children, pets (or anyone) alone in enclosed vehicles for any amount of time.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink more water than you think you'll need. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Wear loose, light colored clothing.
- Plan indoor activities during the hottest part of the day.
- If you have to work outdoors, take lots of water breaks.
- If you have family members, neighbors or friends who don't have air conditioning or you know are alone, make sure to check in on them.
- Check on your pets frequently and make sure they have plenty of cold water and if you can, keep them inside during the day.
- Wear sunscreen anytime you'll be outside.
Heat Related Illnesses
Muscle pains and spasms most commonly in the legs or abdomen. They are an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.
- Get the person out of the heat and have them rest comfortably.
- Lightly stretch the affected muscle and gently massage the area.
- Provide water or an electrolyte-containing fluid (sports drinks, fruit juice or milk).
- Do not give salt tablets.
Heat exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps. Symptoms include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness and exhaustion.
- Move the person out of the heat as soon as possible to a cool environment with circulating air.
- Remove or loosen as much clothing as possible and apply cool, wet cloths to the skin.
- Fan or spray the person with cool water.
- If person is conscious, give them small amounts of water or an electrolyte-containing fluid.
- If their condition does not improve, if they refuse water, have a change in consciousness or vomit, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.
Heat stroke is life threatening. It can occur if you ignore the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke will develop when the body systems are so overwhelmed by heat that they begin shutting down. Symptoms include extremely high body temperature; red skin either dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures.
- Heat stroke can kill. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Do not give fluids
- Rapidly cool the person by immersing them up to their neck in cool water when possible, or you can douse or spray them with cool water.
- Sponge the affected person with ice water-doused towels over the entire body, rotating the towels often.
- Cover the affected person with bags of ice.
- If you are not able to measure and monitor the person's temperature, apply one of the rapid cooling methods listed above for 20 minutes or until the person's condition improves.
Have a fantastic summer. Be smart about when you choose to go outside. Drink lots of water and remember the early warning signs of heat related illnesses.
Source: The American Red Cross