This summer's record heat waves not only have Americans clamoring for cooler temperatures, but many are becoming increasingly alarmed as reports of deaths from heat related illnesses
hit the airwaves. Even areas of the country that have avoided the heat advisories are still seeing record high temperatures. Understandably, healthcare officials are worried.
Heatstroke can cause permanent disability and even death if not treated immediately. All it takes is 10 to 15 minutes for the body’s normal temperature of 98.6°F to rocket to 106° or higher. Excessive heat has caused numerous deaths already - especially among the poor and elderly
who can't afford air conditioning. If heat conditions remain as they are, these numbers are likely to climb. The CDC tells us that extreme heat exposure caused 3,442 deaths in just a four-year span (from 1999 to 2003).Heat related illnesses.
One of the most common symptoms of too much heat exposure is weakened, cramped muscles. These cramps are usually not severe and are easily treated with increased liquids and getting to a cooler environment. On the other hand, heat exhaustion is
severe. This condition means body temperature has already risen and the result is nausea, vomiting and headaches.
But the most threatening of all is heatstroke
. Heatstroke is similar to heat exhaustion but neurological symptoms are involved. Victims become confused and dizzy, as the body can no longer cool and protect itself by sweating. When this happens the body's internal temperature continues to climb and eventually leads to diminished function of internal organs or even a coma. Other symptoms include slurred speech and a decrease in blood pressure.
Usually after a heat stroke, patients are admitted into the intensive care unit for 48-hour stay. If treatment occurs fairly quickly, heatstroke victims are likely to survive. The treatment consists of cooling the patient down by spraying the body with cool water while a fan is blowing on them. Sometimes cool IV fluids are used to try to get the body temperature back to normal.How to avoid heatstroke.
The hottest time of the day is between 10 AM and 6 PM, so try to avoid a lot of strenuous activity during this time. If you must work outside, make sure you have plenty of water breaks and have access to a cooler environment. Wearing lightweight and light colored clothing plus a wide-brimmed hat is also helpful.
Look at your urine to tell if you’re adequately hydrated
. If you are getting enough fluids, then your urine should have a light yellow color. If your urine is a dark yellow, that means you need to drink more liquids. The problem is that most people forget to drink and by the time you feel thirsty, it could be too late.
Even as we move into August, it’s likely the extreme heat will continue. The bottom line is to NOT push yourself. Repeated heat related illnesses tend to get worse each time.