CONYERS - Temperatures have mercifully dipped back below the 90-degree mark for the time being, following an unseasonably early heat wave at the beginning of this month. But, make no mistake about it - the really hot weather will be back, and knowing how to keep cool while still enjoying summer activities could help area residents avoid serious illness or even worse.
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.
Signs and symptoms:
· Heavy sweating
· Muscle cramps
· Nausea or vomiting
· Skin: may be cool and moist
· Pulse rate: fast and weak
· Breathing: fast and shallow
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the body loses its ability to sweat, and it is unable to cool down. Body temperatures rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
Signs and symptoms:
· An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit)
· Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
· Rapid, strong pulse
· Throbbing headache
· Drink more fluids. Regardless of your activity level, replenishing your fluids is always a good idea. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
· Don't drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar - these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
· Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library - even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
· Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
· Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
· NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
· Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on: infants and young children; people aged 65 or older; people who have mental illness; or those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure.
· Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.
If you MUST be out in the heat:
· Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours;
· Cut down on exercise, but if you must do it, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage.
· Try to rest often in shady areas.
· Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.
Information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.