This has been an unusual year for warm weather with 80° temperatures as early as March. With predictions of heat indices over 100° during the coming week, we need to take some proactive steps to avoid overexposure. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash are all possible if you overexert during this time. Be sure to put your health first so you can enjoy your time outdoors this summer.
The Emergency Department staff at Parkview LaGrange Hospital offers these simple suggestions during the hot weather:
- Try to stay indoors in an air conditioned room as much as possible. If you don’t have air conditioning, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sun.
- If you must work outside, try to do so in the early morning or late afternoon or evening as these will be the coolest times of the day. If possible, seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear a hat with a 4-inch or greater brim to keep your head and face cool. This will also provide added protection from damaging sun exposure. Baseball caps provide little protection except to the face. A hat with a wide brim will protect the neck, face and ears.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt (except when working around machinery.) The shirts should be light-colored and loose fitting.
- Carry a source of fresh or bottled water with you. Take drinks frequently—every 15 minutes. Ideally you should drink 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day, even if you are not thirsty.
- Take along a wet washcloth in a plastic baggie – use it to wipe your face and the back of your neck to help cool off.
- A small spray bottle filled with water can be used to mist your skin periodically to cool down.
- Take frequent breaks in the shade or in a cool environment during the hottest times of the day.
- Adjust your schedule gradually when working in the heat, increasing your time outside in small increments over a period of 10-20 days.
- Someone suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke should be moved to a cool environment, offered sips of water, if conscious, and provided with attention from emergency medical personnel.
- Shield your eyes with sunglasses that provide both UVA and UVB protection.
Infants, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses are at particular risk of heat-related illness. Keep a constant watch on children and check in with anyone you know who is most vulnerable at least twice a day.
Know the signs of heat related illness:
Heat cramps: Heat cramps are painful muscle contractions, mainly affecting the calves, quadriceps and abdominals. Affected muscles may feel firm to the touch. Your body temperature may be normal.
Heat exhaustion: With heat exhaustion, your body temperature rises as high as 104 F (40 C) and you may experience:
- Cold, clammy skin.
If left untreated, these conditions can lead to heatstroke.
Heat stroke: Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency condition that occurs when your body temperature is greater than 104 F (40 C). The symptoms of heat stroke include:
- High body temperature,
- The absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin
- Rapid heart rate or pulse
- Difficulty breathing
- Strange behavior
Those at greatest risk for heat stroke include the elderly (especially those with chronic health conditions), infants, athletes and people who work outside.
Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention to prevent brain damage, organ failure or even death. Do not drive yourself to the hospital – call 911.