Avoid Heat Related Illness
 
By Editor
June 17, 2020
 

The human body is normally able to regulate its temperature through sweating, until it is exposed to more heat than it can handle. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can escalate rapidly, leading to delirium, organ damage and even death. In 2017, 87 people died in the U.S. from exposure to excessive heat, according to Injury Facts.

People most at risk include:

Infants and young children, especially if left in hot cars
People 65 and older
People who are ill, have chronic health conditions or are on certain medications
People who are overweight

Heat Exhaustion

When the body loses excessive water and salt, usually due to sweating, heat exhaustion can occur. According to the free NSC First Aid Quick Reference app, signs and symptoms include:

Sweating
Pale, ashen or moist skin
Muscle cramps (especially for those working or exercising outdoors in high temperatures)
Fatigue, weakness or exhaustion
Headache, dizziness or fainting
Nausea or vomiting
Rapid heart rate

Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heat stroke, so make sure to treat victims quickly:

Move victims to a shaded or air-conditioned area
Give water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages
Apply wet towels, or have victims take a cool shower

Heat Stroke

Seek medical help immediately if someone is suffering from heat stroke. Signs include:

Body temperature above 103 degrees
Skin that is flushed, dry and hot to the touch; sweating has usually stopped
Rapid breathing
Headache, dizziness, confusion or other signs of altered mental status
Irrational or belligerent behavior
Convulsions or unresponsiveness

Immediately take action:

Call 911
Move the victim to a cool place
Remove unnecessary clothing
Immediately cool the victim, preferably by immersing up to the neck in cold water (with the help of a second rescuer)
If immersion in cold water is not possible, place the victim in a cold shower or move to a cool area and cover as much of the body as possible with cold, wet towels
Keep cooling until body temperature drops to 101 degrees
Monitor the victim's breathing and be ready to give CPR if needed

DO NOT:

Force the victim to drink liquids
Apply rubbing alcohol to the skin
Allow victims to take pain relievers or salt tablets

The best way to avoid a heat-related illness is to limit exposure outdoors during hot days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Air conditioning is the best way to cool off
Drink fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty, and avoid alcohol
Wear loose, lightweight clothing and a hat
Replace salt lost from sweating by drinking fruit juice or sports drinks
Avoid spending time outdoors during the hottest part of the day, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Wear sunscreen; sunburn affects the body's ability to cool itself
Pace yourself when you run or otherwise exert your body

Keep Each Other Safe

If your job requires you to work outside in hot weather, you and your supervisors can take precautions to minimize the risk of heat-related illnesses. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends:

Working shorter shifts until workers have adjusted to the heat
Staying hydrated and drinking before you get thirsty
Watch out for co-workers exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke
Take time to rest and cool down

In your community, please check in on neighbors who are elderly, house-bound or otherwise may be reluctant to ask for help. You can offer to host them in the air-conditioned comfort of your living room on hot days, drive them to a local cooling center, or call relatives or city services to arrange for them to stay cool.