Heat-Related Deaths and Illnesses

Do not labor outside during the middle of a hot day.

Do not labor outside during the middle of a hot day.

Although it’s coming on winter in the northern hemisphere, places such as Australia, South America and Africa are heading into summer. A few days ago, we offered an article about how deadly summer heat can be for those who live alone or who lose power for air conditioning. But, other than dehydration, how do people die from heat?

A few heat-related ailments, some deadly, are listed below. You also have access to a few tips on how to beat the heat after this list…

Sunburn: Although most people do not die from sunburn, the seriousness of this affliction depends upon its depth, size and location on the body. Sunburn is always more serious for infants and the elderly, as the pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever and headaches can be debilitating for those who cannot fend off such symptoms.

Usually, a cool shower and soap to remove any oils that may block pores and prevent the body from cooling naturally is the solution for a mild sunburn. Use natural aloe, as well, to help cool mild burns. If blisters develop, cover them with a sterile dressing and seek medical attention, as blisters from burns are prone to infection.

Heat Cramps: If you begin to expeience muscle pain and/or spasms, usually in the legs or abdominal muscles, then the heat really is getting to you. Stop what you’re doing and move to a coller location. You can slowly and lightly stretch the muscle and use gentle massage to relieve spasms. Take sips, not gulps, of up to half a glass of cool water every fifteen minutes and avoid caffeine and alcohol. If you begin to feel nauseated, seek medical attention immediately.

Heat Exhaustion: When you lose body fluids through exertion during hot weather, you’re asking for trouble. Heavy sweating is one sign that you may experience heat exhaustion as blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to vital organs to decrease. This reversal of blood flow can result in mild shock. Symptoms include skin that is cool to the touch, despite heavy sweating, pale or flushed skin and a weak pulse. Fainting, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue and headaches also are all possible.

Relief for heat exhaustion comes from stopping all activity and lying down in a cool place. Loosen or remove clothing and apply cool, wet clothes to the skin. Fans or air-conditioning can help the situation, as both devices can help to cool the body and reverse the blood flow. If the victim experiences vomiting, contact medical help immediately. Otherwise, the victim may go into rapid dehydration.

Heat Stroke: Also known as “sun stroke,” victims who experience this heat-related illness can die if not treated immediately. In the case of heat stroke, the victim’s temperature control system stops working. Therefore, no sweat is produced to help cool the body.

Heat stroke symptoms include high body temperature, hot, red and dry skin, weak and rapid pulse and rapid and shallow breathing. Unlike heat exhaustion, you will not see sweat. The only treatment is to call 911 or another medical emergency service, or get the victim to a hospital immediately. The victim may or may not be unconscious, but without moving the victim to a cooler location and medical services, that victim may die. While you’re waiting for medical services, you can remove the victim’s clothing and wrap the person in cool, wet sheets to help reduce the body temperature.

Your activity level and the amount of time you spend in the sun or in oppressive heat has much to do with your health and well being. A sunburn can lead to heat cramps, which can lead to heat exhaustion and may lead to heat stroke. Heat illnesses are progressive, and attention to the symptoms is vital.

To avoid heat-related illnesses, try the following tips:

  • Drink water, even if you don’t feel thirsty. But, don’t overdrink, as too much water also is bad for your health.
  • Do not drink caffeine or alcohol, as both beverages are dehydrating.
  • Avoid sunburn by wearing loose, light-colored clothing and a wide-brim hat. An insulating layer of light clothing actually is cooler than going without clothes, as the fabric can trap a layer of air between your skin and the clothing. Apply sunscreen.
  • Stay as cool as possible by finding air conditioning somewhere other than your home if you lose or do not have that utility. Malls, libraries, churches and other public places can supply what you do not have.
  • Take it easy and avoid strenuous activities during mid-day. If your projects include physical labor, try to work in the early morning, when temperatures are at the coolest.
  • Do not, ever, leave pets or children in a closed vehicle. Temperatures can climb to 78 degrees to 120 degrees Farenheit in under eight minutes. As a side note, keep extra water in your car in case you become stranded.

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