With temperatures forecast to reach near-record highs this weekend, all of us are at greater risk of getting sick from heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses, especially people with heart problems, poor circulation, or diabetes. Those who have suffered a stroke, suffer from obesity or take medications for high blood pressure, nervousness or depression are also at greater risk of becoming sick in hot weather.
To reduce your chances of suffering from heat-related illnesses, the Alabama Department of Public Health suggests you adjust your activities.
The first step to preventing heat-related illnesses is to know when your body is alerting you to a problem. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature control system overloads, causing your body’s temperature to rise rapidly, followed by the failure of your sweating mechanism. Body temperatures can rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes, causing death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not administered quickly.
Other signs of heat stroke include:
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
To avoid heat stroke, state health officials recommend:
- Drink more water
- Avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine
- When temperatures are extreme, stay indoors, ideally in an air-conditioned place
- Take a cool shower or bath and reduce or eliminate strenuous activities during the hottest times of the day
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
- Use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.
If you know any elderly people, check on them periodically to make sure they are OK. Pets should have plenty of water to drink and, if left outdoors, a shaded area to cool off.
If you discover someone displaying symptoms of heat stroke or any other heat-related illness, call 9-1-1 and then get the person to a shady area. Other first-aid options include:
- Cool rapidly in a tub of cool water
- Place in a cool shower
- Spray with cool water from a garden hose
- Place in a cool, wet sheet and fan vigorously.
Continue cooling efforts until the person’s body temperature drops to 101 degrees. A person with heat stroke is likely to be unconscious or unresponsive, so he or she cannot safely consume any liquids. Under no circumstance should a person with heat stroke or any heat-related illness be given alcoholic beverages.