July 21, 2005
STAY COOL AND STAY HEALTHY DURING SUMMER HEAT WAVE
Charlotte, NC - With weather forecasts calling for a prolonged period of heat and extreme humidity, the Mecklenburg County Health Department is urging all citizens to be aware of the potential for heat-related health problems.
People suffer from heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But, under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. If this happens, the temperature of the body rises rapidly and heat-related illness may develop.
Heat-related illness falls into three categories:
• Heat Cramps are muscle cramps that usually begin in the legs and abdomen, usually following strenuous exercise.
• Heat Exhaustion is a more serious condition that can develop after prolonged exposure to high temperatures and inadequate replacement of fluids. Warning signs include elevated body temperature; heavy sweating; excessive thirst; dizziness and nausea; vomiting and diarrhea; and possible fainting.
• Heat Stroke is the most serious heat related illness. Symptoms include high body temperature (106 degrees F or higher), red, hot, and dry skin with no sweating, rapid and strong pulse, confusion, unconsciousness, and even death.
Those at greatest risk for heat-related illness include the elderly, 65 years of age or older, infants and children up to four years of age, persons who are overweight, those who are ill or on certain medications, and people whose occupations expose them to extreme heat conditions.
Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. Doing too much on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun or staying too long in an overheated place can cause problems.
Below are some guidelines that can help prevent or reduce your risk for heat-related illness:
• Drink plenty of water (8 -10 glasses per day, more if you are working or exercising in a hot environment) to maintain good hydration. Carry water or juice with you and drink often, even if you do not feel thirsty.
• Do NOT drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar. These can actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, cold drinks may cause stomach cramps.
• Eat a balanced diet. Hot foods and heavy meals add heat to your body.
• Get plenty of rest and sleep. During periods off extreme heat or humidity, avoid unnecessary exertion.
• If you cannot be in an air-conditioned environment, keep air circulating with fans and adjust blinds and window shades to reduce heat from the sun. Shut off all non-essential lights and appliances.
• Wear lightweight, loose fitting, light-colored clothing. If you musty go outdoors, be sure to apply sunscreen. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of bodily fluid.
• If you work in a hot environment, pace yourself. Start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for air, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or at least in the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.
• Never leave a child or pet unattended in a car during hot weather, even with the windows partially open. Temperatures can quickly reach levels that can hurt or kill your child.
• When entering a vehicle, protect children from hot parts such as safety belts and metal clips. Carry a towel or diaper to place under children for protection from burns.
• Check on the elderly frequently. They are less likely to sense and respond to temperature changes. Those who are on certain medications or have chronic illnesses are most vulnerable.
• Persons exercising outdoors should take extreme caution during hot weather. Start off slow, and try and exercise during the coolest parts of the day, early morning or later evening.
• During the hottest part of the day, keep your activity to a minimum.
For more information about heat related illness, check out our Web site at