Archived Story

Careful, it’s hot out there

Published 10:35am Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It’s hot.

No, it’s really hot.

That’s not news. It’s more of a warning.

As temperatures continue to climb into the mid to upper 90s and the heat index hits well into triple figures, we all need to be aware of the dangers associated with this heat wave.

We know that we live in Alabama and hot summers come with the territory, but let’s not forget that excessive heat can be deadly. We don’t have to dig too deep into history for proof. In 1980 a heat wave killed 125 people across the state.

We might not be quite to that point just yet, but given the combination of the heat and humidity currently affecting Alabama everyone should be aware of the warning signals of heat illnesses.

Heat related illnesses occur when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded.

Heat stroke, sometimes called sunstroke, is the most serious heat related illness.

It 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.

Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Individuals with heart problems, poor circulation, diabetes, a previous stroke or obesity are at an even greater risk of becoming sick in hot weather.

Heat-related illnesses may also increase among people using medications for high blood pressure, nervousness or depression.

How can we avoid falling victim to the heat?

The Alabama Department of Public Health advises everyone to drink plenty of water, stay in air-conditioned areas as much as possible and keep out of the direct sun.

But since hiding out in our homes until December isn’t an option for most of us, we also need to know the warning signs of heat illness.

The signs vary, but include the following: An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees), red, hot and dry skin (no sweating), rapid, strong, pulse-throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, unconsciousness.

If you are with someone who is suffering from heat illness, call emergency personnel immediately, then get the person to a shady area, cool them rapidly in a tub of cool water, place in a cool shower, spray with cool water from a garden hose, splash with cool water, or if the humidity is low, place in a cool, wet sheet and fan vigorously.

Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the person’s body temperature drops to 101 or 102 degrees.

And next time someone tells you it’s hot out there, think of it more as a warning and less as polite conversation.

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