Since we live in the South, we have to be extra careful when it comes to heat exhaustion. Temperatures in the 90’s with high humidity leave our bodies extremely hot because the sweat on our skin cannot evaporate as much as it would if the air was drier. Being wet and hot can lead to dangerous medical conditions from heat cramps to heat stroke. In this section we define the terms behind the dangers of heat.
Heat Wave: Prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.
Heat Index: A number in degrees Fahrenheit (F) that tells how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees.
Heat Cramps: Muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are often the first signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.
Heat Exhaustion: Typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim’s condition will worsen. Body temperature will keep rising and the victim may suffer heat stroke.
Heat Stroke: A life-threatening condition. The victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Also called “Sun Stroke”.
To prepare for extreme heat, you should:
The following are guidelines for what you should do if the weather is extremely hot:
Extreme heat brings with it the possibility of heat-induced illnesses. The following table lists these illnesses, their symptoms, and the first aid treatment.
Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, headaches
Take a shower using soap to remove oils that may block pores, preventing the body from cooling naturally.
Apply dry, sterile dressings to any blisters, and get medical attention.
Painful spasms, usually in leg and abdominal muscles; heavy sweating
Get the victim to a cooler location.Lightly stretch and gently massage affected muscles to relieve spasms.
Give sips of up to a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. (Do not give liquids with caffeine or alcohol.)
Discontinue liquids if victim is nauseated.
Heavy sweating but skin may be cool, pale, or flushed. Weak pulse. Normal body temperature is possible, but temperature will likely rise. Fainting or dizziness, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, and headaches are possible.
Get victim to lie down in a cool place.
Loosen or remove clothing.
Apply cool, wet cloths.
Fan or move victim to air-conditioned place.
Give sips of water if victim is conscious.
Be sure water is consumed slowly.
Give half glass of cool water every 15 minutes.
Discontinue water if victim is nauseated.
Seek immediate medical attention if vomiting occurs.
High body temperature (105+); hot, red, dry skin; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid shallow breathing. Victim will probably not sweat unless victim was sweating from recent strenuous activity. Possible unconsciousness.
Call 9-1-1 or emergency medical services, or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
Move victim to a cooler environment.
Try a cool bath, sponging, or wet sheet to reduce body temperature.
Watch for breathing problems.
Use extreme caution.
Use fans and air conditioners.