Winnebago County Health Department offers heat-related safety tips

The hot summer sun not only brings hot summer days; it brings heat waves as well. The Winnebago County Health Department wishes to remind residents of the health concerns associated with the intense heat. “The two most common heat-related conditions are heat stroke and heat exhaustion” said Sue Fuller, Community Relations Manager.

Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Heat stroke can result from over exposure to direct sunlight (with or without physical activity) or to high indoor temperatures.

Symptoms may include: high body temperature; red, hot, and dry skin; rapid pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; unconsciousness.

Treat someone with heat stroke as follows: find a cool place indoors (preferably air conditioned) or a nice shaded area outside, put the person in a semi-sitting position and loosen his/her clothing and bathe them in cold water. Then seek medical attention immediately.

Heat exhaustion occurs when too much time is spent in a very warm environment, resulting in excessive sweating without adequate intake of fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) for replacement. This can occur indoors or outdoors, with or without physical activity.

Symptoms may include: dizziness; headache; nausea; abdomen cramps; shallow breathing; cool and clammy skin; muscle tremors; heavy perspiration.

Treat someone with heat exhaustion as follows: find a cool place indoors (preferably air conditioned) or a nice shaded area outside, keep the person quiet, loosen their clothing, and have them drink water or fruit juice. Seek medical attention if the symptoms worsen or continue for more than an hour, or if the person has heart problems or high blood pressure.

Other good tips for keeping safe in the summer sun include:

Limit outdoor functions and plan activities around the coolest times of the day. Avoid the sun during the midday hours from 10 a.m.–3 p.m.

Apply a SPF 15 or greater at least 30 minutes prior to going out in the sun. Reapply after exercising and swimming. Lips are very vulnerable, too, so protect them with a balm of at least SPF 15.

Wear sunglasses when outdoors.

Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes made from cotton. Wear a hat that shades the face, neck and ears.

Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater to protect against sunburn.

Never leave children or pets in a parked car, not even for a few minutes.

Give pets ample water, and a shady spot to be under if they have to be outdoors during the warm weather.

Drink 1–2 quarts of water or fruit juices per day. Avoid caffeine or alcohol.

Check several times daily on senior citizens living alone.

Lastly, if you do not have air conditioning, seek comfort at a local mall, cinema, library or community center. For more information on heat safety, contact the Winnebago County Health Department at 720-4000.

From the June 29-July 5, 2005, issue

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