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Preventing heat-related illness

While you may be familiar with Texas’ brutally hot summers, are you familiar with the symptoms of heat-related illness? TWU Risk Management encourages you to be familiar with the following:

What is heat-related illness?

Also called hyperthermia, this condition results from exposure to extreme heat where the body is unable to properly cool itself. Normally, evaporation of sweat removes excess body heat, however when humidity is high, sweat does not evaporate as quickly.

Based on data from 1999 to 2010, Texas, Arizona and California accounted for 43% of all heat-related deaths. However, it is difficult to truly estimate the impact of extreme heat as health-care providers and hospitals are not required to report these illnesses to public health agencies. Additionally, these illnesses are frequently misclassified.

Who is at risk?

Those at the greatest risk are infants and children up to 4 years of age, people 65 years of age and older, overweight individuals, those with medicals conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, the socially isolated and the poor.

However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if participating in strenuous activities during hot weather.

Additionally, drinking alcohol and taking certain medications can impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature.

How to prevent it?

Stay hydrated by drinking lots of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages, even when you’re not thirsty. If you are engaging in vigorous activity in the heat, drink sports drinks. Drink enough to keep your urine very pale yellow.

Wear loose, lightweight clothing made of fabric that breathes and allows sweat to evaporate. A wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 15 SPF can help prevent sunburn, which affects the body’s ability to cool itself.

Also, don’t stay outside in high temperatures for long periods of time. This is especially true for the hottest part of the day — from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Take breaks indoors.

What are the symptoms?

               Heat Exhaustion                                                         Heat Stroke   

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness/weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting (passing out)
  • High body temperature (103ºF or higher)
  • Hot, red, dry or damp skin
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Losing consciousness (passing out)

 

How to treat it?

               Heat Exhaustion                                                         Heat Stroke   

  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen your clothes
  • Put cool, wet cloth on your body or take a cool bath
  • Sip water

*Get medical help right away if:

  • You are throwing up
  • Your symptoms get worse
  • Your symptoms last over 1 hour
  • Call 911 right away — heat stroke is a medical emergency
  • Move the person to a cooler place
  • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
  • Do not give the person anything to drink if the person is not alert or is vomiting
  • At the hospital, health care providers can re-hydrate the person with an IV

While this summer is drawing to a close, there are still plenty of hot days ahead. Practice prevention to avoid heat-related illness.

Contact Risk Management if you have any questions.