With temperatures soring across the country its important to know what to do during a heat wave and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and hyperthermia. In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods. The following hyperthermia safety checklist has been provided by the American Red Cross:
Heat Exhaustion - signs include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion.
Move the person to a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in the condition.
If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1.
Heat Stroke - signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting; and high body temperature.
Heat stroke is life-threatening, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person's body by giving care as you would for heat exhaustion. Continue rapid cooling by applying ice or cold packs wrapped in a cloth to the wrists, ankles, groin, neck and armpits.
Heat Cramps - are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen caused by exposure to high heat and humidity and loss of fluids and electrolytes. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.
Health-related factors that may increase the risk of hyperthermia include:
Impaired blood circulation and inefficient sweat glands
Heart, lung and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes weakness or fever
High blood pressure or other conditions that require changes in diet
Reduced sweating, caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers and certain heart and blood pressure drugs
Taking several drugs for various conditions. It is important to discuss possible problems with a physician
Being substantially overweight or underweight
Drinking alcoholic beverages
If you suspect that someone is suffering from a heat-related illness, seek immediate emergency medical attention for any of these symptoms, especially if it involves an older adult.
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