July 22, 2005
“Periods of extremely hot weather, such as what we are experiencing now in Illinois, can lead to serious health problems,” Dr. Whitaker said. “Prevention is the best defense against heat-related illness. Staying cool, increasing your fluid intake, decreasing your activities and wearing appropriate clothing can help your body cope with high temperatures.”
Normally, the body cools itself by sweating. If temperatures and humidity are extremely high, however, sweating is not effective in maintaining the body’s normal temperature. If the body does not cool properly or does not cool enough, a person may suffer a heat-related illness. Heat-related illnesses can become serious or even deadly if unattended.
Dr. Whitaker offered the following prevention tips to beat the heat and any related illness:
If you must go outside:
Although anyone can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:
Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion of heat stroke. Infants and young children need much more frequent watching.
The following are commonly asked questions about heat-related conditions.
What are some of the most common heat-related conditions?
The most common heat-related conditions are heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash. Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are the most serious conditions.
What is heatstroke?
Heatstroke occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heatstroke can result from overexposure to direct sunlight, with or without physical activity, or to very high indoor temperatures. It can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.
What are the symptoms of heatstroke and how are they treated?
Symptoms of heatstroke include an extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F, orally); red, hot and dry skin; rapid pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness.
If symptoms of heatstroke are present, find a cool place, preferably an air-conditioned indoor setting. Outside, find a spot in the shade. Put the person in a semi-sitting position. Loosen his or her clothing and bathe the head and body with COLD water. Seek medical attention immediately.
What is heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion can result when too much time is spent in a very warm environment, resulting in excessive sweating without adequate fluid and electrolyte (salt and minerals) replacement. This can occur either indoors or outdoors, with or without exercise.
What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion and how are they treated?
Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include dizziness, headache, nausea, abdominal cramps, shallow breathing, cool and clammy skin, muscle tremors and heavy perspiration.
A person suffering from heat exhaustion should be moved to an air-conditioned environment if possible. If outside, move the person to a shady spot. Loosen the person's clothing and encourage him or her to drink cool, non-alcoholic, decaffeinated beverages.
Keep the person quiet. It may be necessary to seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour or if the person has heart problems or high blood pressure. If left untreated, heat exhaustion may progress to heatstroke.
How can I avoid heat exhaustion and heatstroke?
Try to keep cool during extremely hot weather. Stay in a cool environment (preferably air conditioned), drink plenty of fluids -- such as water, fruit juices or fruit drinks -- and use common sense. Heat injury may develop with or without feelings of discomfort.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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