Take Cover When Heat Is High
Get tips on how to prevent heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heatstroke.
This summer has been a scorcher in much of the nation, with temperatures
soaring into the 90s from the western Plains to the East Coast.
But the line on the thermometer is not the only way weathermen define heat.
They have created a Heat Index, which combines heat and humidity to create a
sort of 'misery index.' The temp may be 100 degrees, but combined with humidity
(which inhibits sweat from evaporating off the skin and cooling the body), the
Heat Index may climb into the danger zone at 105 degrees or higher.
By danger zone, they mean: danger of vomiting in public, collapsing, or even
Who's Most Likely to Suffer?
According to the CDC, the elderly, children under 4, people who are
overweight, those who become dehydrated, the mentally ill, or people with
medical conditions, or who are on certain medications seem to be the most
susceptible targets of a heat wave.
"You know who we see a lot?" asks Bruce Bonanno, MD, an emergency
medicine physician in the New York and New Jersey areas. "We see young
people coming in. One place I work is a beach community. They drink the night
before and think their fancy little drinks are hydrating them, when they are
doing the exact opposite. Then they go to the beach the next day, fall asleep,
bake in the sun, and each day get a little more behind on their fluids.
Eventually, they end up in the ER."
People suffer a heat-related illness when the body's temperature system is
overloaded. The body is sweating, but the sweat is not evaporating due to
humidity. Eventually, like a runny egg white, the brain begins to
The most common heat-related illness is heat exhaustion. This usually builds
up over several days of activities in a hot environment, without proper
replacement of fluids. Wham, it can hit you. The symptoms are:
- Heavy sweating
- Turning pale
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cool, clammy skin
- Fast breathing
To help the person, provide cool fluids immediately, anything nonalcoholic,
but preferably water. Have the person lie down inside or take a cool bath or
shower and then rest.
If the person's symptoms are severe or there are pre-existing medical
problems, such as high blood pressureor heart
disease, then you need to get medical attention right away.
In the ER, Bonanno says, they have sports drinks on hand. If the person is
not sick enough to warrant an IV, they can sip the drinks in the waiting