TAKE ACTION: Tips to help avoid illness during the summer heat

Extreme heat and humidity can set the stage for serious heat-related illness.

The American Red Cross urges people to be prepared by taking precautions reviewing the signs of - and first aid treatment for -heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat Cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen and are caused by loss of fluids and exposure to heat and humidity. Heat cramps are an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.

Heat Exhaustion is more serious than heat cramps, and it typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid environment where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. If not treated, the victim may suffer heat stroke. Signals of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale, flushed or red skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat emergency and is life-threatening. With heat stroke, the victim's temperature-control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. With heat stroke, the victim will stop sweating. Signs of heat stroke include hot, red and dry skin, changes in consciousness, rapid and weak pulse, and rapid, shallow breathing.

Some tips to avoid heat illness include:

  • PRE-HYDRATION is key in preventing heat-related illness. Drink plenty of water or electrolyte replacement drinks several hours prior to and during long exposure to the summer heat.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a wide brimmed hat if working outdoors and take plenty of shade breaks.
  • Use the buddy system if working outdoors and check on elderly neighbors.
  • Keep Heat Outside & Cool Air Inside - Put up temporary reflectors in windows, like cardboard covered with aluminum foil. Hang shades, sheets or curtains on windows that get morning or afternoon sun.
  • Drink Lots of Water even if you don't feel thirsty. Don't drink alcohol or caffeine. They make the heat's effects worse.
  • Don't Use Salt Tablets unless told to do so by a doctor. Salt causes the body to retain fluid, resulting in swelling.
  • Eat small meals & eat more often. Large, heavy meals cause your body to increase internal heat to digest food.
  • If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, pick other places you can go during the warmest part of the day. Schools, libraries, malls, rec centers, and other public buildings may offer air-conditioning on the hottest days.

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