According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), extreme heat causes 658 deaths in each year in the United States, which is more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and lightning combined. Signs of heat stroke are throbbing headache, dizziness and light headedness, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea, rapid heartbeat and breathing.
On a 95 degree day, the temperature inside a sealed car can reach 107 degrees in less than one minute. Nevertheless, some people think it’s a good idea to leave their pets in the car while they run into the mall. As a result, the news features far too many stories of dogs dying of heatstroke. If you see an animal in a car with the windows up, police urge you to call 911 and report it immediately.
Extreme heat can lead to very high body temperatures, brain and organ damage, and even death for pets as well as people. Both of them suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. Extreme heat affects everyone, but certain groups of people are prone to heat-associated symptoms. These groups include:
- The elderly
- Poor and/or homeless people
- People who work or exercise outdoors
- Anyone who has a chronic health condition
- Dogs who are unfortunate enough to have dim-witted masters.
Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat injury and is a medical emergency. If you suspect that someone has heat stroke (also known as sunstroke), call 911 immediately and render first aid until paramedics arrive. Heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Here’s how you can spot heatstroke:
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Lack of sweating despite the heat
- Red, hot, and dry skin
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
The good news is that heat-related illnesses and death are entirely preventable. All that is required is preparation. To BE SAFE this summer, make sure your home, office, doghouse or building has access to air conditioning or a cooled forced air system. If that’s not possible, ask your family, friends, associates, employees and/or tenants if they know where to find area cooling stations or other public locations for temporary relief from heat, particularly when temperatures are elevated for several consecutive days.
The Mayo Clinic suggests these steps to prevent heath stroke in heat waves:
- Limit your physical activity for at least several days until your body can adapt to higher temperatures and humidity. This one is tough for me. It’s a good thing that walking is usually okay.
- Realize that your body needs time to adapt to extreme temperature changes. You may still have an increased risk of heatstroke for several weeks of higher temperatures.
- Although fans may bring body temperatures down, in sustained hot weather, air conditioning is the most effective way to cool down and lower humidity.
- Certain medications place you at a greater risk of heatstroke and other heat-related conditions because they affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and respond to heat. Be especially careful in hot weather if you take medications that narrow your blood vessels (vasoconstrictors), regulate your blood pressure by blocking adrenaline (beta blockers), rid your body of sodium and water (diuretics), or reduce psychiatric symptoms (antidepressants or antipsychotics). Stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and illegal stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine also make you more vulnerable to heatstroke.
- Certain chronic illnesses, such as heart or lung diseases, may place you at increased risk of heatstroke. Also at increased risk are people who are very overweight, or who are in poor physical condition.
Other stay-cool hints:
- Stay hydrated. I drink several bowls of water each and every day. You should too!
- Use a hand-held, battery-operated personal fan to stay cool.
- Wet skin with water from a sponge or washcloth.
- Apply ice packs to armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
- Immerse yourself in a shower or tub of cool water or take an ice bath. Or spray yourself with a garden hose. Works for me!
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat.
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.
- Take additional precautions when exercising or working outdoors.
- Reschedule or cancel outdoor activity. If possible, shift your time outdoors to the coolest times of the day, either early morning or after sunset.
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