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Hints for Health...Heat is potential hazard PDF Print E-mail

By Kathy Meyer

APRN

For many people, summertime means warm, comfortable days, perfect for outdoor activities such as baseball, golf, long walks or outings at the city park. 

For others, summertime means outdoor employment or weekend work projects. Whether work or play, hot conditions coupled with high humidity levels pose dangers to health and safety.

Heat exhaustion occurs when people exercise in a hot, humid place and body fluids are lost through sweating, causing the body to overheat. The person’s body temperature elevates, but does not exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Signs and symptoms to watch for concerning heat exhaustion include pale, cool, moist skin; profuse sweating; muscle pain or cramping; headache; nausea; weakness and elevated heart rate.

Heat stroke is a medical condition that can be life threatening. The victim’s cooling mechanism stops working in the brain, leading to the internal body temperature rising to dangerous levels above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Brain damage as well as damage to internal organs may occur as a result of this significant elevation in body temperature.

Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include abnormal mental status changes such as dizziness, confusion or coma; flushed hot, dry skin; hyperventilation and throbbing headache.

Treatment for heat related illnesses involve cooling the victim down rapidly with cool water applied externally; removing or loosening clothing; drinking water or electrolyte drinks while avoiding caffeinated beverages and alcohol; getting the victim to a shaded area or air-conditioned environment; and monitoring the body temperature closely.

Always keep in mind that if you recognize signs of severe heat stress that you are dealing with a potential life threatening emergency. 

Have someone call for medical assistance while you begin measures to cool the victim down.

For more information, contact your medical provider or search the CDC website at www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/faq.asp