Temperatures are soaring as we head into July, and to go along with last month's article on sun protection, I thought it would be helpful to remind everyone to be safe while working or playing out in the heat! During Missouri's hot and humid summers, not only the temperatures are high, but the heat index often makes it feel much hotter than the thermometer displays. Heat index takes into account not just air temperature, but the relative humidity, also, for a measure of how hot it feels to you. In addition, when the relative humidity is is greater than 60%, it hampers sweat evaporation, which seriously compromises the body's ability to cool itself. When the body's ability to cool itself is lowered, you run a much higher risk of heat-related illness. Heat exhaustion is either the result of water depletion or electrolyte depletion in the body. Some symptoms include profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps, pale skin, dark colored urine, fainting or confusion, dizziness or fatigue, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is vital to get cooled off!
Get inside an air-conditioned room.
Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing.
Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
Apply other cooling measures such as fans or ice towels.
Drink plenty of fluids.
If heat exhaustion doesn't improve in 15 minutes, seek professional help as it can progress to heat stroke. Heat stroke often advances from heat exhaustion, but can happen with no previous sign of illness. Heat stroke is dangerous and is considered an emergency. It can kill or cause damage to the brain or other internal organs, because it is the failure of the body's temperature control system. Heat stroke is characterized by some of the above mentioned symptoms of heat exhaustion, as well as a body temperature of 103 degrees or higher, alterations in mental state or behavior, alterations in sweating, hot, red, dry, or moist skin, or possible unconsciousness. It is very important to seek medical help immediately while taking measures to cool the victim.
Now that we've discussed the dangers of heat-related illnesses, here are some precautions you can take that may help you to avoid experiencing them. As always, prevention is the best cure!
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
Protect against sunburn.
Drink plenty of fluids- staying hydrated will help your body to perspire and maintain normal body temperatures.
Avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it actually expels water from cells.
Take a trace mineral/electrolyte supplement when you are losing alot of fluids through sweating. This is very important! Electrolytes play a vital part in maintaining the balance between intracellular and extracellular environments in your body. This balance is important for hydration, nerve impulses, muscle function, and PH level, and basically most of your body's processes.
Don't forget to take your calcium and magnesium supplements, as these are minerals that can be lost through sweat also!
Talk to your doctor about your medications, some can affect the body's ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat.
Try to avoid strenuous activity during the heat of the day. If you must work in the heat, allow yourself to become acclimated to it by limiting your time exposed to the heat until you are conditioned to it.
Remember to never leave anyone in a parked car. Children are especially sensitive to the heat.
Look in on your neighbors, especially the elderly, young, and ill, as they are more susceptible to heat and therefore heat-related illnesses.
I hope this has been a helpful reminder to you and we all at Meadowbrook wish you a happy and safe rest of your summer!