Surviving Summer Scorchers
Can't take the heat? Many people can't, and too often they end up in the hospital.
Elderly at Risk continued...
Walsh says a healthy young person, treated in time, has about a
90% chance of surviving severe heat stroke. Nevertheless, he says two teenage
boys in his area recently died because they had gotten high on jimson weed
(a.k.a. "loco weed") on a day when the temperature broke 100. They were
just too stoned to realize how hot they were.
For an elderly person or someone whose health is fragile to
begin with, the survival rate is less than 50%, he says. "It depends on how
sick they are when they get to us."
He says El Paso has fewer cases than other parts of the country
because the climate is arid. Down on the bayou, in the Everglades, and even in
the Northeast, 100-plus degrees is much worse than it is in the Western
Cramps, Exhaustion, Bad Mood
Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are not as scary. "These
don't directly lead to heat stroke," Walsh says, but they are disabling.
Both conditions are caused by loss of fluid and electrolytes -- salt,
potassium, and magnesium -- through sweating. Heat exhaustion is just what it
sounds like. Blood pressure drops and circulation decreases, which causes
fatigue, fainting, or collapse. Heat cramps set in after strenuous exercise in
hot conditions. They're painful, but not too serious.
Doctors treat heat exhaustion and cramps by replacing lost
fluids and electrolytes, sometimes intravenously. The first-aid tent at a
summer marathon is a good place to see how they do it. Often dozens of stricken
runners will be stretched out on cots, hooked up to IV tubes or chugging
Oppressive heat hurts more than the body. If you have to spend
a lot of time in the heat, you're likely to get crabby. "It does affect the
emotions," says Arthur Bachrach, a psychologist and spokesman for the
American Psychological Association.
Road rage is one example of how heat may affect your psyche --
which is no surprise if you've ever crept along in freeway traffic on a
sweltering day. "Road rage is at least in part a function of heat
stress," Bachrach says.
Heat also makes you feel apathetic and dulls your
concentration, which can hurt your work performance and lead to accidents. The
National Occupational Safety and Health Administration (NOSHA) takes heat
seriously. Of course, tarring a roof in August is nastier business than it is
in April, but many Americans work in hot environments year-round -- in
laundries, mines, foundries, and steam tunnels, to name a few.
NOSHA recommends that workers gradually expose themselves to
heat, so they can acclimate. They should also have a cool place to rest --
where the temperature is about 76 degrees -- and drink five to seven ounces of
water every 15-20 minutes, or two to three gallons a day.