Heat-related illness prevention: Stay cool as summer gets hot

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We’ve already seen triple-digit high temperatures in portions of Idaho this summer and mid-July and August are traditionally the warmest months, so it’s a good time to remember how to avoid heat-related illness. Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable, and it’s important for us all to keep as cool as possible so we can stay healthy.

Who is most at risk for heat-related illness?

People at the highest risk are babies and children up to age 4, people 65 and older, and anyone who is overweight, sick or on certain medications. But, really, everyone can get sick in the heat if they’re not careful, especially if they’re doing strenuous physical activities in high temperatures.

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Are there other factors that put us at risk?

A number of things can make it more difficult for your body to keep itself cool, including age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation and even sunburn. And that cold beer a person might like to have in the heat of the day? That’s not such a great idea. Drinking alcohol in hot weather can hamper your ability to keep cool – Water works best to cool your body down.

What are the best ways to stay hydrated?

On hot days, you should drink more water than normal regardless of your activity level. If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Avoid alcohol and sugary beverages and make sure your friends and family do the same. It’s especially important to drink 2-4 glasses of water each hour if you are working or exercising outside.

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What are some signs of heat-related illness?

Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting and headache. If you get to the point where you can’t breathe, are not sweating and are experiencing hallucinations or are disoriented, you may have heat stroke. Take immediate steps to cool down and call for help.

How can we stay cool?

Plan your biking, hiking, gardening and other outdoor activities in the morning, when it’s cooler. Otherwise, stay inside air-conditioned buildings whenever you can; in extreme heat, a fan won’t be enough. If you don’t have air conditioning in your home, head to a public building that does: the library, a shopping mall or movie theater. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. If you feel overheated, take a cool shower or bath.

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Anything else?

Yes – Never, ever leave a child or pet alone in a parked car. On average, every 10 days in the U.S. a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle. More than half-the-time, the caregiver forgot the child was in the car. The interior temperature of a car can increase 19 degrees in 10 minutes. Kids are particularly at risk – their bodies heat up three-to-five times faster than adults.

A Closer Look at Your Health airs weekly on KBOI Newsradio 670 in Boise at 6:50 a.m. MDT Tuesdays; this is an extended transcript of the July 18 program. 

Resources:

CDC’s tips for preventing heat-related illness: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heattips.html

Heatstroke prevention from Safe Kids Worldwide: https://www.safekids.org/heatstroke

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