The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.
People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves.
Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.
How to protect against heat-related illness:
- Slow down, and avoid strenuous activity.
- Postpone outdoor games and activities.
- Avoid sunburn. Stay in the shade, wear protective clothing, and use sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) and ultraviolet type A (UVA) rating.
- Conserve electricity other than that being used for cooling equipment.
- If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a public building with air conditioning each day for several hours.
- Wear lightweight clothing.
- Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath.
- Dress appropriately:
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing that will cover as much skin as possible.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat when outdoors.
- Drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Water is the safest liquid to drink during heat emergencies.
- Avoid extremely cold drinks, which can cause cramping.
- Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine.
- If you are taking water pills or you limit the amount of fluid you drink on your doctor’s orders, ask how much you should drink during hot weather.
- If you take medications, check with your doctor to see if you need to take extra precautions in extreme heat.
- If you must work outdoors, take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors.
- Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat.
- Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
- Never leave children, elderly or functional needs adults, or pets alone in closed vehicles.
Protecting your pets from heat emergencies:
Heat stress can cause brain and organ damage in dogs, cats and other pets. Symptoms of heat stress include heavy panting, glaze eyes, a rapid heartbeat, restlessness, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, and unconsciousness. If an animal shows symptoms of heatstroke, gradually lower its temperature through these steps:
- Move the animal into the shade or an air-conditioned area.
- Apply ice packs or cold towels to its head, neck and chest, or
- Immerse the animal in cool (not cold) water.
- Let the animal drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
- Take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible.