Mercury rising

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Farmers are certainly feeling better lately about their crops, with the much-needed rains that have been falling around the region.

But as is the case for the time of year, we must remember that those afternoon cloudbursts are caused by summertime heat n heat that can be very dangerous, and deadly if we don't take heed to the warning signs.

First, there is heat exhaustion n this occurs when the body is beginning to get hot faster then it is can cool down. Signs of this include muscle cramps, dizziness and nausea.

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One might also notice a decreased amount of perspiration, which is one of our defense mechanisms in order to cool us down.

Blood vessels are made to expand, increasing circulation to the outer extremities n the arms and legs n in an attempt to carry the heat away from the center of the body to be removed in sweat, which is then dried from the skin by evaporation.

But if the body is losing fluid (through perspiration) faster then it is replaced, it won't take long to go from exhaustion to heat stroke.

This is the deadly part. Once the body can no longer cool itself, core temperature rises very quickly, and the brain and other vital organs begin to virtually "cook" and die. Cells in our body each are comprised of more than 75 percent fluid, and they cannot function without it.

Signs of heat stroke are bright red skin, dizziness or loss of consciousness, and very high skin temperatures. The normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but it is common for a temperature to reach 105-106 degrees F. in heat stroke.

The key to survival in heat is recognizing these signs and symptoms, rapidly cooling the body back to a normal range, and consuming large quantities of water, especially before exposure to sunlight and prolonged heat.

Another important thing is to avoid alcoholic beverages during exposure to the sun, as they increase diuresis, or production of urine, which can quicken the onset of dehydration.

With a little precaution, we are able to live more than 70 or 80 years, but these simple things like hydration (taking in fluid) will help us to make it to those golden years.