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I Feel the Temperature Rising

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece about cold-related emergencies. I realize the topic may have seemed a bit odd considering we were/are midway through spring and quickly approaching summer, but if you recall, much of the world was talking Titanic that week. And if the night the Titanic sank didn’t bring about a cold-related emergency, I don’t know what does.

Now, two weeks later, it feels like summer where I live in Texas. One of our three city pools opened last weekend, and we spent Sunday afternoon reacquainting ourselves with the back float and the breaststroke. We’ve already gone through two full bottles of sunscreen, and all of our sweatshirts and jeans have been boxed up and stored under the beds.

Summer may still be two months away, at least according to the calendar, but it’s time to start talking about how to prevent and respond to heat-related emergencies.

Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are all conditions caused by over-exposure to heat. Heat cramps are the least severe of the three conditions, but if left untreated heat cramps can lead to heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke.

First, here’s what you can and should do to prevent all three of these heat-related conditions:
- Avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day (usually between 11am and 4pm).
- Drink extra fluids before, during, and after activity. Stick with water and sports drinks and avoid alcoholic, caffeinated, sugary, and extremely cold beverages.
- Dress appropriately for the temperature in lightweight, light-colored, well-ventilated, and loose-fitting clothing, a hat, sunglasses, and broad-spectrum sunscreen.
- Take frequent breaks in shady or air-conditioned areas.
- Change your activity level according to the temperature.

And second, here are the signals of and treatments for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke:

Heat Cramps
Signals

- Muscle spasms, most often in the legs

Treatment
- Move the person to a cooler place and have them rest in a comfortable position.
- Lightly stretch and gently massage the affected muscle.
- Replenish fluids – one glass of cool water every 15 minutes.

Heat Exhaustion
Signals

- Cool, moist, pale or flushed skin
- Excessive sweating
- Headache
- Nausea, dizziness, and exhaustion

Treatment
- Move the person to a cooler place and have them rest in a comfortable position.
- Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths.
- If the person is conscious, replenish fluids – one glass of cool water every 15 minutes.
- Observe the person carefully, watching for changes in his/her condition.

Heat Stroke
Signals

- Hot, red skin (can be dry or moist)
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Vomiting
- Changes in consciousness

Treatment
- Heat stroke is life threatening. If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 or the local emergency number immediately.
- Move the person to a cooler place and have them rest in a comfortable position on his/her side.
- Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths.
- If the person is conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink.
- Continue to cool the person by using ice or cold packs on the wrists, ankles, groin, and neck and in the armpits.
- Observe the person carefully, watching for changes in his/her condition and regularly checking breathing and circulation.

Summer is a wonderful time of year, especially if we play it safe!

2 Responses to “I Feel the Temperature Rising”

  1. We just had the Boston Marathon and the temperature was in the high 80′s. Lots of runners postponed till next year while others chose to run. It was very smart of people to play it safe and postpone. Heat exhaustion is something people need to take very seriously. The instructions given in ” I Feel The Temperature Rising” could save a life.

    Pierce Aliberti
    Stoneham, Ma. 02180

  2. [...] exhaustion, and/or heatstroke. To avoid becoming a victim of the summer temperatures and humidity, take steps to keep you and your family cool and hydrated this [...]

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