Southwest Medical – Heat Safety
Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. In Nevada, there were 50 heat related fatalities in 2016, which is more than double the previous year. Of course, the desert southwest is one of the hottest areas in the country, and temperatures in the triple digits are nothing new for us. But even if you’re used to the heat, trouble can still strike if you’re not careful.
Dehydration is a real danger; don’t underestimate its potential:
- Heat cramps are muscle pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen, and are often an early sign of trouble.
- Heat exhaustion is a more severe condition than heat cramps. Signs include cool, moist, pale, ashen or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion.
- Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that usually occurs by ignoring the signs of heat exhaustion. The body systems are overwhelmed and begin to stop functioning. Signs include extremely high body temperature; red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; confusion; vomiting; and seizures.
Home treatment isn't sufficient for heatstroke. If you see signs or symptoms of heatstroke, seek emergency medical help immediately. Others should take steps to cool the person off while waiting for help to arrive.
There are a lot of steps you can take to protect yourself and your family:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
- Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
- Postpone outdoor games and activities.
- Take frequent breaks if you must work outdoors.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
- And remember to watch out for each other. Check on family, friends and neighbors who may not have air conditioning, who live alone or who may more likely to be affected by the heat.
- And check on your animals frequently to make sure they’re not suffering.