Excessive heat exposure caused more than 8,000 deaths between 1979 and 2003 in the United States and Fire Capt. Mark Stone shares his tips to staying safe this summer.
"During this period, more people in this country died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This is the time of year when we (Emergency Medical Services) see a rise in the number of calls we go on," said Stone. "Primarily the reason is because people become more active due to the nicer weather and may not realize their physical limitations."
But when temperatures suddenly climb into the 90s, "It can actually take us several days to become acclimated to a new climate," said Stone.
Infants, children and people 65 and older are even more susceptible to the heat changes.
"Check on the elderly or home-bound in your neighborhood. Frequent checks throughout the day can save a life or prevent a serious medical emergency," said Stone. "Those with heart disease, high blood pressure and certain other illnesses are more at risk in the high temperature extremes as well."
But, heat-related deaths and illness are preventable at any age.
Aside from common sense actions, like wearing sunblock, wearing light clothing, drinking water and staying in the shade, Stone says there are more ways to avoid heat related emergencies.
- Don't drink just anything: Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid coffee, soda (caffeine) and alcohol. Water and sports drinks can replenish your salt and electrolyte loss that happens when we perspire.
- Enjoy some air conditioning: Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. Stay indoors if you have a cool environment such as air conditioning, if not, you can go to a shopping mall or . "This short and simple reprieve can help your body stay cooler when you return to the heat," he said.
- Avoid high noon outdoor plans: Plan your activities around the extremes of the day. If you want to do outdoor activities, try to limit them to the early morning and late evening hours when the temperature and sun is less intense. "Do not mow that lawn today if you can put it off until a cooler day," Stone said. "Taking pride in your lawn and garden should be second to your health."
The following is an excerpt from cdc.gov:
Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include the following:
- An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)
- Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion include the following:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
In any of these cases you should seek immediate medical attention by either contacting your doctor or EMS.
"Time is of the utmost importance when dealing with heat related illnesses and emergencies," Stone said.