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Take Cover When Heat Is High

Get tips on how to prevent heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heatstroke.

Heatstroke

If someone experiencing heat exhaustion isn't treated (see below), it can progress to heatstroke, also known as sunstroke. This is very serious. Heatstroke occurs when the body simply cannot control its temperature anymore and the body's temp rockets to 106 degrees or higher within 10 minutes to 15 minutes. This can cause permanent brain damage or death if not treated immediately.

The symptoms of heatstroke are:

  • Extremely high body temperature of 103 degrees (by oral thermometer) or more
  • Red, hot, dry skin (lack of sweating)
  • Rapid, pounding pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

If someone faints or stops making sense near you:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • While the EMTs are en route, get the victim to a shady area or inside.
  • Get the person cool immediately. Do whatever you have to -- wet compresses, a cool shower, spray them with water from a hose, wrap in a cool, wet sheet and fan them.
  • If vomiting occurs, turn the person on the side.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are due to muscle spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs. This is usually a result of so much sweating that the body is low on sodium. People on a low-sodium diet have to watch for this.

People with heart problems or who are on low-sodium diets need to seek medical attention right away for heat cramps. If you or someone you know gets heat cramps, stop all activity and get inside. Drink a clear juice or sports drink (if you are on a low-sodium diet, check with the doctor first). Do not go back outside for several hours, even if the cramps subside, because further exertion could lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke. If the cramps last more than an hour, check with a doctor.

Heat Rash

This is more common in youngsters, but anyone can get it. Heat rash is an irritation of the skin that comes from excessive sweating. Common areas that develop heat rash are the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases. The solution is to keep the area clean and dry. Avoid using creams because they can form a barrier keeping the area moist and hot making heat rash worse.

Dos and Don'ts for Extreme Heat

Do:

  • Drink a lot of fluids, even if you aren't thirsty.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or sugared sodas because they can make fluid leave your body faster.
  • Stay indoors if at all possible.
  • Go to a mall, movie, or friend's or relative's home if your air-conditioning goes out. See if there are heat-relief shelters nearby for the night.
  • Buy a fan to move air around, even if it's air-conditioned air. But remember, air-conditioning is best above 90 degrees.
  • Wear light-colored, loose clothing. Don't overwrap babies; put a shade over them instead.
  • If you go out, do it early or after dark.
  • Cut down on exercise. Bonanno has shortened his workouts considerably. "It's not even really cool enough in the morning," he says.
  • Stay in the shade.
  • Move slowly.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Check on elderly neighbors or relatives.
  • Give pets plenty of water or bring them inside.
  • Tune into weather broadcasts for the latest heat advisory or alert and heed it!
  • Let outside workers take more frequent breaks.
  • Wet a paper towel or hankie and drape it on your face when you come inside. Other "hot spots" to place a cool compress for quick cooling include the back of your neck, underarms, and groin area.

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