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Hot Weather Health

Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. Two common problems are heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106°F or higher. within 10-15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Recognizing Heat Stroke

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include:

  • an extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally)
  • red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • rapid, strong pulse
  • throbbing headache
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • unconsciousness
What to Do

If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life threatening emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim:

  • Get the victim to a shady area.
  • Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place in a cool shower; spray with cool water from a garden hose; sponge with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
  • Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
  • Do not give the victim alcohol to drink.
  • Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
Sometimes a victim's muscles will begin to twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke. If this happens, keep the victim from injuring himself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his or her side.

Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is the body's response to an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood preset and people working or exercising in a hot environment.

Recognizing Heat Exhaustion

Warning signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • heavy sweating
  • paleness
  • muscle cramps
  • tiredness
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting
  • fainting
The skin may be cool and moist. The victim's pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke. Seek medical attention immediately if:
  • symptoms are severe, or
  • the victim has heart problems or high blood pressure.
Otherwise, help the victim to cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour.

What to Do

Cooling measures that may be effective include:

  • cool, non-alcoholic beverages, as directed by your physician
  • rest
  • cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
  • an air-conditioned environment
  • Lightweight clothing


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