MANSFIELD — After a week filled with rain, temperatures for the next several weeks are going to be higher. Richland Public Health urges residents to use extra care to avoid heat-related illness (known as hyperthermia).
People suffer heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion when the body’s temperature-control system is overloaded. Sweating is the body’s natural way of cooling itself. In some situations, especially in periods of high humidity, sweating alone will not provide an adequate release of body heat.
Conditions that can limit the body’s ability to regulate temperature in hot weather are old age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, poor circulation, sunburn and drug and alcohol use. Among those at highest risk for heat stroke or heat exhaustion include: Infants and children up to 4 years old; People 65 and older; People who are overweight; People who over-exert during work or exercise and people who are ill or on certain medications.
Friends and neighbors should periodically check on the elderly and those with illnesses, as they are among the highest-risk groups for heat-related problems.
Beat the heat
- Drink Cool (not cold) Fluid — Active people should drink two to four glasses (16 to 32 ounces) of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour.
- Do not take salt tablets without a doctor’s advice.
- Avoid fluids that contain alcohol or caffeine, because they can add to dehydration and increase the effects of heat illness.
- Monitor or Limit Outdoor Activities
- Plan outdoor activities for the early morning or the evening, when the sun is less direct.
- Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.
- A wide-brimmed hat protects against sunburn and helps keep the body cooler.
- Move to the shade or into an air-conditioned building at the first signs of heat illness.
Very young children may become preoccupied with outdoor play and not realize they are overheated. Adults should mandate frequent “breaks” and bring children indoors for a cool drink.
Children or adolescents involved in team sports should be closely monitored for signs of heat stress. Consideration should be given to modifying practice or play during the hottest parts of the day.
Signs of heat exhaustion (they can come on quickly) include: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or fainting.
People experiencing these symptoms should be moved to a cool, shady or air-conditioned area, and provided cool, non-alcoholic beverages. Remove layers of clothing, if possible.
Signs of heat stroke, a potentially life-threatening condition, include: a body temperature of 103 degrees or higher; red, hot and dry skin with no sweating; rapid pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; unconsciousness; and gray skin color.
People experiencing heat stroke need immediate medical assistance. But before help arrives, begin cooling the victim by any means possible, such as spray from a garden hose or by placing the person in a cool tub of water.
- When it’s hot, older adults:
- Should turn on the air conditioner or go where it’s air-conditioned—a shopping mall, grocery store, senior center, movie theatre, museum, or library. (Fans aren’t enough.)
- Should Not walk long distances, lift heavy objects, or do other strenuous things.
- Should drink lots of water and other clear drinks that don’t contain alcohol or caffeine (these can “dry you out”).
- Should take cool showers, baths, or sponge baths.
- Should wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. A good choice is clothing made of natural fabrics like cotton.
- Should wear hats.
- Should stay out of the sun.
And don’t forget your pets. Animals kept outdoors should have plenty of fresh water and a covered area to get out of the sun and cool down. Consider exercising with your pets in the early morning or evening to help keep all cool
The best defense against heat-related problems is prevention. Staying cool and making simple changes in fluid intake, activities and clothing during hot weather will help keep you safe and healthy.