It’s summertime in the Midwest, which means heat and humidity are now part of everyday life. It’s not unusual for temps to hit 90 degrees or higher between June and August. Add high humidity, and the heat index – what we feel, rather than actual temperature – can soar well above 100 degrees for several days in a row.
When Mother Nature turns on the blast furnace, it’s important to watch for indications of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in ourselves and those around us. Neglecting to keep alert can have serious, even deadly, repercussions.
Here are some warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
● Heavy sweating
● Muscle cramps
● Upset stomach or vomiting
● Body temperature above 103 degrees
● Red, hot, and dry skin – no sweating
● Rapid, strong pulse
● Throbbing headache
● Upset stomach
● Passing out
So, what do you do when heat exhaustion or heat stroke strikes?
If it is heat stroke (or heat exhaustion where symptoms get worse or last longer than one hour), get medical help immediately. While waiting for medical attention, do this:
● Move the affected person to a shady area or air-conditioned room.
● Do not give them anything to drink.
● Indoors, place them in a cool (not cold) bath or shower.
● Outdoors, spray them gently with a garden hose or sponge with cool water.
● Turn a fan on them.
● Keep this up until help arrives or their body temperature falls below 102 degrees and stays there.
● Move the affected person to a shady area or an air-conditioned room.
● Help them take a cool (not cold) bath, shower, or sponge bath.
● Give them cool, nonalcoholic beverages.
- Have them rest.
To help avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke, there are several proactive steps you can take:
● Keep hydrated by drinking lots of water.
● Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
● Wear sunscreen and a breathable hat.
● Take regular breaks out of the sun.
● Include cool-down activities in your day, such as swimming, “Story Time” at an air-conditioned library, or shopping at an indoor mall.
● Stay out of hot, confined spaces and NEVER leave kids or animals in a closed, parked vehicle.
● Regularly check on loved ones who are at an elevated risk for heat-related illness, such as infants, young children, the elderly, and people with chronic medical conditions.
● For those who regularly work (or work out) outdoors, be aware it takes approximately two weeks for the body to acclimate to higher temperatures. Take it easy those first few days, with frequent breaks spent in the shade or air conditioning. This is especially important for those who are overweight, as the extra padding insulates the body, making it harder to cool down.
Like the old John Denver song says, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” Enjoy this summer, soaking up rays with family and friends – while being mindful of how the heat is affecting them. Let’s bypass the pitfalls of too much of a good thing.