The heat can be sweet, but know your limits
Last updated 7/31/2019 at 4:11pm | View PDF
Summer is the time to soak up outdoor pleasures. But it’s also the season for high temperatures and humidity, which can foil the fun if one is overexposed to them.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can escalate rapidly, leading to delirium, organ damage and even death. In 2017, according to the National Safety Council, 87 people died in the U.S. from exposure to excessive heat. Infants and young children, seniors and those with chronic health conditions are most at risk, but anyone exposed to hot weather for an excessive period can be susceptible to heat-related illness.
When the body loses excessive water and salt, usually due to sweating, heat exhaustion can occur. Symptoms include sweating, muscle cramps, weakness or exhaustion, headache or dizziness, nausea or vomiting and rapid heart rate.
Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heat stroke. Signs include body temperature above 103 degrees and skin that is flushed, dry and hot to the touch. Sweating has usually stopped and breathing is rapid. The victim also may exhibit irrational or belligerent behavior and convulsions or unresponsiveness.
The best way to avoid a heat-related illness is to limit exposure outdoors during hot days, especially during the hottest period from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises seeking out air conditioning, if available, when needing to cool off, and drinking fluids regularly — but avoid alcohol.
Wear loose, lightweight clothing, a hat and sunscreen, as sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself. Those engaged in exercise or sports activities should pace themselves when running or exerting their bodies.
Water safety is also an area of emphasis this season as individuals and families head to pools and beaches. The USA Swimming Foundation reported nearly 90 children younger than 15 drowned in a pool or spa from January through May 2018, and every year about 19 children drown during the July 4 holiday. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has compiled the following statistics:
• 74 percent of drowning incidents for children younger than 15 between 2015 and 2017 occurred in residential locations
• Boys younger than 15 die from drowning at twice the rate of girls
• Emergency departments treat about 6,400 pool and spa injuries in children younger than 15 every year
The NSC and CPSC hold an annual pool safety campaign focused on reducing child drowning in pools and spas by encouraging people to follow five simple steps to stay safer in and around water:
• Designate a water watcher every single time children are in or near the water.
• Make sure one’s children know how to swim.
• As a parent or guardian, learn CPR.
• Always remove portable pool ladders when not in use.
• Ensure all permanent pools have a proper fence and gate and safer drain cover.
Adhering to these guidelines will go a long way to keep everyone safe these final weeks of summer and allow all to devote attention to other important matters — like which flavor ice cream to choose.