Although we’re knee-deep in July, today, June 20th, 2012 is only the first day of summer. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that early season heat waves are the most likely to catch people off-guard. Now that most schools have dismissed students, it’s natural to assume that kids will be spending more time outside.
Heat-related injuries are common among children — infants and children up to age 4 being the most vulnerable—the elderly and people with mental illnesses and chronic diseases. Studies have shown almost half of all cases of heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat cramps requiring hospitalization involve children and teens. Seventy-five percent of the incidents stem from sports or exercise — with another 4 percent caused by outdoor recreational activities — while 11 percent were related to yard work, and 5 percent were due to home maintenance.
Heat stroke is a serious illness that occurs when the body is unable to control its core temperature. On days when the humidity is high, sweat won’t evaporate as quickly and this may keep your body from efficiently releasing heat. When perspiration—the body’s cooling mechanism—stops, various warning signs of heat stroke may occur as follows:
- Core temperature above 103°
- Red / hot skin without signs of perspiration
- Rapid pulse
Once a person has experienced heat stroke, future instances of heat-related injuries are more likely to occur.
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat stroke. Successive days of extreme high temperatures and inadequate hydration heap on the negative effects of heat stress. The following symptoms indicate possible heat exhaustion:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
Heat exhaustion untreated may progress to heat stroke.
Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms. While perspiration is necessary to cooling the body, the salt stored in the muscles and lost in perspiration must be replaced or muscle spasms will develop. People on a reduced salt intake diet should seek medical attention for heat cramps.
Avoiding Heat-Related Illnesses
With soaring temperatures and no rain-bearing cold fronts on the near horizon, the best things you can do to prevent heat-related injuries are to drink plenty of fluids replacing salt and minerals through diet or sports drinks, wear cool clothing, use plenty of sunscreen and limit outdoor activities to cooler early morning or evening hours.
To learn more about heat-related illnesses, visit the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov
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