Chill Out! - Tips on Heat Safety

Extreme heat may be defined as a situation where a region's temperature rises at least 10' above what is considered the normal high temperature. The condition is dangerous and poses serious health consequences for many. Extreme heat is associated with heat stroke and heat exhaustion, both of which can lead to hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is a medical condition, which involves the body heating faster than it can cool off. Often attributed to extreme heat, hyperthermia requires immediate medical attention or it can prove fateful.

Definition

Sometimes referred to as a heat wave, extreme heat often occurs during summer and includes periods of unusually high temperatures that last for an indefinite length of time. A heat wave differs from an unusually hot summer day, as a heat wave occurs consecutively. High humidity may or may not accompany a heat wave. During times of extreme heat, citizens tend to use their air conditioners more frequently, which may result in widespread power outages. The high temperatures may scorch fields and cause significant crop loss. Hyperthermia is the leading cause of death during times of extreme heat. Other effects of extreme heat include rash, cramps, exhaustion, and heat stroke. There are several people that are highly susceptible to the effects of extreme heat and all precautions must be taken to prevent them from succumbing to the ill-effects associated with high or extreme heat. 

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Safety Precautions when Outside

Precaution is the best method to prevent complications from extreme heat. There are certain situations where a person becomes more vulnerable to the effects of extreme heat than another. Those with compromised immune systems, underlying medical conditions, the elderly, and infants are extremely vulnerable to extreme heat. By taking precautions, you can do everything within your power to prevent heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and hyperthermia.

  • Find an air-conditioned spot and stay there. Do not travel outdoors during times of extreme heat, but rather remain indoors, close to your cooling source. 
  • Make certain to drink plenty of liquids, such as water or an electrolyte replacement drink. Stay away from sugar laden, alcohol rich, or caffeinated beverages as these contribute to dehydration. 
  • Choose an air-conditioned location rather than use a fan. Fans are often ineffective against the dangers of hyperthermia.
  • Take cold showers or baths for a fast way to cool down.
  • Avoid overly cold drinks as they may cause stomach cramping.
  • Choose thin, lightweight clothing.
  • Never leave someone in a car during times of extreme heat.
  • Limit all outdoor activities and avoid going outside if possible.
  • If you must go outside drink plenty of water and do not wait until you are thirsty.
  • Limit activities and rest in a cool room.

Work Safety

Preventing heat related illnesses is not something reserved solely for citizens; employers must take safety measures as well. Education is key and employers should speak to their employees regarding heat stroke and other illnesses so they are equipped to prevent them. Employees must make certain they provide workers with water and an area where overheated workers may cool down. It is recommended that workers drink approximately one pint of water per hour during times of extreme heat. Employers must make certain that workers are dressed appropriately and wearing lightweight clothing.

Monitoring Those at High Risk

Those who are high risk of succumbing to health related illness must be carefully monitored for signs of heat related illness. High-risk individuals include the elderly, those with heart conditions, people on medications, the overweight or obese, and young infants, and children. The elderly have a harder time adjusting to high temperatures and they should remain indoors, near an air conditioner. Make certain that you regularly check on high risk individuals and seek medical help immediately in times of an emergency.

Health Emergencies

Knowing the signs and symptoms of health related injuries will help alert you to signs of an emergency. Heat exhaustion may include symptoms such as a person feeling nauseous, sweating profusely, feeling muscle cramps and overwhelming tiredness and fatigue, sudden weakness or fainting. Anyone experiencing heat exhaustion must be moved to a cold area immediately. It may be necessary to remove clothing to help the person cool down. Seek medical attention if the person does not cool down or begin to feel better.

Heat stroke is more serious and can prove fatal. With heat stroke, a person may develop hot, red skin that is dry to the touch. The temperature is rising faster than the body is cooling off and sweating stops. A person may fee nauseous, have a racing pulse, become dizzy and even lose consciousness. Their skin color might change to a grayish tone. If someone is experiencing heat stroke call 911 immediately. Place the person in a tub of cool water and stay with them to make sure they do not lose consciousness. The person must cool down as quickly as possible. Do not wait for symptoms of heat stroke to subside on their own but rather seek medical attention immediately.

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