The kind of sweltering conditions seen across much of the country right now can cause people to fall victim to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
As your air conditioner works overtime, your electric bill becomes obscene and crops and gardens wither, make sure you monitor yourself and those around you for signs of heat-related illness. High humidity makes these types of illness come on fast, as your sweat doesn’t evaporate very quickly in humid weather. It’s the evaporation of sweat that cools you down, not just sweat pouring off of you.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body’s core temperature gets too high. This typically occurs when the air temp is higher than the normal body temperature (98.6 degrees F).
Dehydration, other illness and exertion can also play a large role in bringing on heat-related illness. Heat exhaustion is characterized by dizziness and tiredness, with sweating and clammy skin. The treatment for heat exhaustion is quite simple: Have the victim lie down in the shade, elevate his feet and give him plenty of fluids until he recovers. If the victim is elderly, or has other health issues, call 9-1-1 just in case.
Severe hyperthermia is known as heat stroke. Symptoms include a body temperature of 104 degrees or higher, hot dry skin, headache, dizziness and unconsciousness. The easiest symptom to spot is dry skin; when someone has stopped sweating, that is a very bad thing.
Heat stroke can be fatal, so call 9-1-1 immediately if you or someone else is showing these symptoms. For field treatment of heat stroke, get the victim to the coolest place possible. Elevate his head – not his feet as you would for heat exhaustion. Wrap the victim in cool, wet clothing or a wet sheet.
Keep pouring cool water on the cloth and fan the patient to bring his temperature down. When the body temperature drops below 104 degrees, take away the wet fabric and cover him with dry fabric or clothing. Repeat the treatment if the body temperature begins to rise again. If the victim goes unconscious before or during treatment, watch for cardiac arrest and be prepared to give CPR.
To prevent these heat-related illnesses, make sure you take it easy this summer. Rest and hydrate often as you work and play outside. Do heavy work in the mornings or evenings when it is cooler. And pay attention to the warnings that the human body will give you.