Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Respect the Heat

The month of June made its presence known when, in its first weekend, the temperatures shot to the mid 90’s. For nearly five days straight, the temperatures in Central Virginia were about 10 degrees above normal for the first week of June. In retrospect, this was probably a good thing because it forced many of us to remember that we must respect the heat. As summer moves on, we’ll have many opportunities to deal with high temperatures, and for the sake of our health and well-being, we simply need to remember the basics.

We all know that our bodies can cool down by sweating. However, in extreme heat, the body can lose its ability to regulate temperature. The sweating function fails, and the body temperature rises rapidly, which can result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke. While the two former are less severe forms of hyperthermia, heat stroke is a true medical emergency and must be treated immediately. Serious cases can damage your organs, and even result in death. The most common symptoms of heat stroke are high body temperature, the absence of sweating with hot red or flushed dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, confusion, and dizziness. If you think someone might be suffering from a heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Next, cool them down any way you can until help arrives. Get them to a shaded or air conditioned area, remove clothing, and fan them vigorously to promote sweating and evaporation. You can also spray or sponge them with cool water.

As you are out and about this summer, remember that you need to drink plenty of fluids, take frequent breaks from activity, wear light, loose clothes, and avoid vigorous physical activities on the hottest days. Lastly, if you do not have air conditioning where you live, consider spending a few hours in a public place that does such as a mall or a library. Even just a few hours of air conditioning a day can reduce the risk of heat-related illness. And yes, much of this is considered to be common sense, but we are just trying to keep common sense all the more common! Stay cool out there while you enjoy your summer.

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