Don’t let a heat wave interfere with your health and wellness
Do you know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke? If you’ll be spending considerable amounts of time outdoors this summer, you should be prepared. You don’t want the rising temperatures to get in the way of your fun vacation plans. A little know-how can go a long way.
Extremely hot and humid weather challenges your body's ability to cool itself. When the body heats too rapidly, or when you lose too much fluid or salt through dehydration or sweating, your body temperature rises, and this can lead to a heat-related illness.
According to U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), take these steps to prevent heat related illness and fatalities:
- Keep cool water on hand and take a drink every 15 minutes—even if you’re not thirsty.
- Rest in the shade to cool down at regular intervals. Or—even better—get inside for a blast of air conditioning.
- Wear a hat as well as light-colored clothing. (Dark clothing absorbs heat.)
- Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency (see below).
- Keep an eye on your friends and family who may be outside with you.
- “Easy does it” on your first days in the heat. You need to get used to it, so spend shorter amounts of time outside in the first few days, and then gradually increase your exposure as your tolerance grows.
Next, educate yourself about the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Do you know the signs?
Signs of heat exhaustion:
- sweaty skin
- nausea and/or vomiting
- fast heart beat
What to do for heat exhaustion:
- move the person to a cooler environment
- lay the person down and loosen their clothing
- apply cool, wet cloths to as much of the body as possible
- fan the person or move them to an air conditioned room
- offer them sips of water
- seek immediate medical attention if the person vomits more than once.
Signs of heat stroke:
- skin that’s red, hot, and dry to the touch
- high body temperature—above 103 degrees F
- confusion and disorientation
What to do for heat stroke:
- Given the severe medical emergency, don’t delay—this can be fatal. Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately.
- Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned environment.
- Reduce body temperature with cool cloths or bath.
- Use a fan only if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s (a fan can make you hotter at higher temperatures).
- Do NOT give fluids.
Once you’re up to speed on the basics of heat safety, you can go ahead with your summer activities, confident that you’re taking the best care of yourself and your family and friends. Enjoy!
This post is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, located in Manchester, NH. Visit us online to learn more, or reach out to schedule a campus tour!