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Staying Aware of Your Health in the Face of Extreme Heat

Updated on August 2, 2014

Although it has been a cool summer for some, it's been a scorcher for others. For those in the extreme heat areas of the country, it is important to consider the risks associated with heat stress and/or heat injuries. Did you know that extreme weather patterns related to heat and high temperatures are the highest cause of weather-driven deaths in the United States?

Signs of Heat Injury

Heat injury occurs when the body is unable to cool and/or regulate its core temperature. Typically, the body sweats under extreme heat conditions but on occasion, sweating just isn't enough. This is particularly true during humid conditions. Even when temperatures are relatively low for summer months, humidity can have and adverse impact on the body.

Type of Heat Illness
Signs and Symptoms
Action Required
Heat Cramps
Pain that emerges in the presence strenuous exercise or activity in the heat
Cramps in the arm, legs, or stomach
Move to a cool or air conditioned space. Stop the activity. Drink fluids that are high in sodium like a sports drink to replace electrolyte loss. Observe for changes in condition.
Heat Exhaustion
Occurs when there is a loss of both sodium and/or liquid
Thirst, weakness, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps
Remove or loosen tight clothing, apply cool compresses or towels. If the individual is alert, give a cool (not too cold) drink like water or a sports drink. Consumption of 1/2 liter every 30 minutes is acceptable. Remember to avoid caffenated or alcoholic beverages if possible. Move to a cool or air conditioned space.
Heat Stroke
Occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature
Throbbing headache, dizziness, red/dry hot skin or profuse sweating, confusion or passing out, body temp over 103 degrees F.
Get this individual immediate medical attention. Reduce body temperature. Cool bath. IV fluids may be required.

Preventing Heat Injury and Heat Stress

There are a few tips that organizations such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommend to help prevent heat injury. Consider the following:

  • Dress in or wear light clothing
  • Avoid or limit alcohol or sugary drinks
  • Try to limit intense exercise activities to the cooler hours of the day such as the early morning or late evening hours
  • Stay well-hydrated before, during and after activity. A good indicator of hydration is the color of your urine. Dark urine or urine that is the color of apple juice is a good indicator that you are dehydrated while urine that is the color of lemonade or brighter is a sign of hydration.
  • Do not leave infants, children or pets in closed parked cars
  • Take advantage of air conditioned buildings or spaces
  • If there is time, spend 14 days acclimating to the weather

© 2014 Mahogany Speaks


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