Summer is officially here, and that means extreme heat is back as well.
Extreme heat is dangerous for everyone, but it can be deadly for some. Prolonged exposure to heat can be especially deadly for young children, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.
Heat causes the highest number of deaths out of all weather-related emergencies, so it’s important to take precautions.
Conditions that could be made worse by high temperatures include diabetes, COPD, asthma, heart conditions, skin conditions and even mental health conditions such as depression. Even if your condition is well-controlled, excessive heat could compromise your body’s ability to cope when temperatures are very high. Some medications, such as blood pressure medication, diuretics or antihistamines, could also contribute to dehydration and affect the body’s ability to function well in extreme heat. So, while you should continue to take your medicine as prescribed, you should also take steps to protect yourself from heat-related complications.
Warning signs that your body may be experiencing heat exhaustion, which could lead to heat stroke, include:
- Muscle cramps
- Headaches, confusion, fainting or dizziness
- Excessive sweating
- Extreme thirst
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- No longer sweating
- Having a body temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit
- Headache, dizziness/lightheadedness
- Rapid heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation and staggering.
Call 9-1-1 and seek immediate care if you suspect you are experiencing heat stroke or severe heat exhaustion.
Strategies to protect yourself during times of extreme heat include:
- Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water (at least six to eight cups per day) is probably the most important precaution you can take. If you are sweating a lot, you may also want to drink liquids containing electrolytes, but be mindful of drinks with added sugars. Limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol, which could contribute to dehydration.
- Exercise early or late in the day: Only take on strenuous outdoor activities like exercise or yard work, during the early morning or evening hours when temperatures are lower.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Try to stay in cool places such as air-conditioned homes or in the shade when outdoors. If your home is not cool enough, spend time in cooler public locations such as a mall, a public cooling center or community center, or a friend or relative’s home.
By taking these precautions, you can help avoid heat-related complications and stay safe.