Beat The Heat – DHHS Tips To Prevent Heat Related Illness | KLIN
With Nebraska experiencing a dangerous heat wave with head indexes reaching 111 degrees F, the Nebraska Department of Health wants Nebraskans to be aware of symptoms of heat stroke, the most severe form of heat injury, and steps to take to prevent them.
Heat stroke is a condition caused by a person’s body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure or physical exertion at high temperatures. This can occur in combination with dehydration, which can lead to a failure of the body’s temperature control system. Heat stroke can occur if the body temperature rises to 104 F (40 C) or higher. The disease occurs most often in the summer months.
Risk factors associated with heat-related illnesses include:
- Old; Infants and children up to 4 years of age and adults over 65 are particularly at risk because they adapt to the heat more slowly than other people.
- Health conditions; These include heart, lung, or kidney disease, obesity or underweight, high blood pressure, diabetes, mental illness, sickle cell anemia, alcoholism, sunburn, and conditions that cause a fever.
- Medication; These include antihistamines, diet pills, diuretics, sedatives, sedatives, stimulants, anti-seizure drugs, heart and blood pressure drugs, and psychiatric drugs. Illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine are also associated with an increased risk of heat stroke.
People with diabetes are at increased risk of emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and death from heat-related illness and may underestimate their risk during heat waves, according to a recent study by researchers at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service. A doctor or health care provider is the best source to determine if a person’s health and personal medications are affecting their ability to deal with extreme heat and humidity.
If you suspect heat stroke (sometimes referred to as sunstroke) you should call 911 immediately and give first aid until the paramedic arrives. While waiting, start first aid by moving the person to an air-conditioned area, or at least a cool, shaded area, and removing unnecessary clothing. If possible, take the person’s temperature and institute first aid to cool them down to 101-102 degrees F. If thermometers are not available, do not hesitate and start the first aid process.
The following cooling strategies can be tried out:
- Ventilate the patient while you wet their skin with water from a sponge or garden hose
- Applying ice packs to the patient’s armpits, groin, neck, and back. Since these areas near the skin are rich in blood vessels, cooling beforehand can help lower the body temperature more quickly.
- Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cold water
- If the person is young and healthy and has suffered heat stroke while exercising vigorously (called exertional heat stroke), an ice bath can help cool the body.
- Do not use ice on the elderly, young children, patients with chronic illnesses, or those who have experienced heat stroke without vigorous exercise. This can be dangerous.
Heat stroke can kill or damage the brain and other internal organs. Although heat stroke primarily affects people over 50, especially those who live in apartments or houses without air conditioning or good airflow, it can put a lot of stress on healthy young athletes. Other risk groups are people of all ages who drink too little water, have chronic illnesses or drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
Heat stroke is closely related to the Heat Index, which is a measure of how someone feels when the effects of relative humidity and air temperature are combined. A relative humidity of 60% or more hinders the evaporation of sweat, which hinders the self-cooling of the body. The risk of heat-related illness increases dramatically when the heat index rises to 90 degrees or more. It is important to pay attention to the stated heat index, especially during a heat wave, and to remember that direct sunlight can increase the stated heat index by 15 degrees.
People who live in an urban area can be particularly vulnerable to heat stroke during an extended heat wave, especially in stagnant atmospheres and poor air quality. With the so-called “heat island effect”, asphalt and concrete store heat during the day and only release it gradually at night, which leads to higher night temperatures.
Heat stroke often occurs as a result of milder heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, fainting, and heat exhaustion. But it can also strike without any prior signs of heat injury. Other common symptoms are nausea, seizures, confusion, disorientation, throbbing headache, lack of sweating despite the heat, muscle weakness / cramps, rapid heartbeat and sometimes loss of consciousness.
Heat stroke can be prevented with a few precautions. If the heat index is high, stay in an air-conditioned environment. If this is not possible, avoid heat stroke by:
- Wear light, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more
- Drink extra fluids. To prevent dehydration, it is generally recommended that you drink at least eight glasses of water, fruit juice, or vegetable juice a day. Since heat-related illnesses can also result from a lack of salt, it may be advisable to replace water with a sports drink rich in electrolytes in extreme heat and humidity.
- Take extra precautions when exercising or working outdoors. The general recommendation is to drink 24 ounces of fluid two hours before your workout and consider adding an additional 8 ounces of water or sports drink just before your workout. Drink an additional 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes while exercising, even if you are not thirsty.
- Postponement or cancellation of outdoor activities. Move your time outdoors to the coolest times of the day, either early in the morning or after sunset.
- Monitoring the color of your urine; darker urine is a sign of dehydration. Make sure you drink enough fluids to keep the urine very pale.
- Weight measurement before and after physical activity. Monitoring your lost water weight can help determine how much fluids to drink.
- Avoid liquids containing caffeine or alcohol, as both can lead to dehydration and exacerbate heat-related illnesses. Do not take salt tablets unless directed by a doctor. The easiest and safest way to replace salt and other electrolytes during heat waves is by drinking sports drinks or fruit juices.
- Ask your doctor before increasing your fluid intake if you have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver problems. If you are on a fluid diet or have a fluid retention problem, a doctor or health care provider should be consulted.
If you live in an apartment or house without fans or air conditioning, try to spend at least two hours each day, preferably during the hottest part of the day, in an air-conditioned environment. At home, during the hottest part of the day, close the curtains, blinds or shades and open the windows on at least two sides of your house at night to create cross ventilation.
Seniors who either cannot afford to buy or operate air conditioning in their home should contact their local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for assistance. In addition, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides financial support for managing your home’s heating and cooling bills. Further information can be found at https://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Energy-Assistance.aspx