Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
Several hikers in Arizona were killed this summer when they engaged in strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day. And an Indiana landscape crewman died when his body temperature soared to 108 degrees after he worked for nine hours in the direct sun, in 110 degree heat. These deaths are especially tragic because they could have been avoided if the victims had taken steps to avoid heat exhaustion – the precursor to heat stroke, potentially leading to death.
Heat stroke affects people engaged in recreation, at home, and on the job. What’s more, workplace heat exhaustion is a significant problem, with agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) working diligently to educate workers about the risks of heat-related deaths. Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities can lead to heat-related illness.
Heat can strike any time of the year, in virtually any location, as it did last October when temperatures soared over 100 degrees across California. With fall weather and associated slightly cooler temperatures, people have the tendency to grow complacent about heat exhaustion. But the risks are not relegated to a few summer months or tropical locations.
The following headlines illustrate the point:
- Bizarre September Heat Wave continues in Oklahoma.
- Heatwave hits London capitol.
- Los Angeles hotter than Palm Springs due to odd heatwave.
- Bay Area braces for a hot weekend.
- Glasgow is set for mini heat-wave.
Heat Exhaustion – How to Spot it and Stop it
The first step to heat exhaustion prevention is to pay attention to how your body feels and make sure you drink plenty of liquids. Next, heed these signs and contributing factors:
- Muscle cramping, weakness, and clammy skin are telltale signs of heat exhaustion, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
- If you aren’t sweating enough in heat, take notice. Dehydration occurs when the body cannot properly regulate internal temperature.
- In high heat, monitor alcohol use, as it can interrupt body heat regulation and cause dehydration.
- Watch what you wear. Excessive clothing can impact the body’s ability to regulate temperature. “Dressing for the weather” is vital to prevent this type of overheating. Babies and small children are at an increased risk of quickly developing heat exhaustion if they are overdressed.
Heat Stroke – the Warning Signs
After heat exhaustion comes heat stroke – a condition wherein death can occur in the absence of swift action. For example, a construction worker in North Naples, Florida recently succumbed to heat stroke after working on a roof in 90-degree heat.
Symptoms that suggest the onset of heat stroke
- Red, hot, dry skin, unlike the clamminess that often accompanies heat exhaustion
- Cessation of sweating, despite heat
- Seizures and general confusion/disorientation
- Rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing
At-home treatment for heat stroke includes wetting the victim’s skin, fanning him to increase air circulation, and possibly even submerging the person in a tub filled with ice. Heat stroke often requires a speedy trip to the emergency room, so the patient can receive specialized care. Once a person is unconscious or the body temperature reaches 104 degrees or higher, every minute counts.
Don’t forget to watch your pets for signs of heat stroke. Cats and dogs can suffer from heat stroke. Avoid long walks during the middle of the day and pack plenty of cold water for your dogs. If your pooch is excessively panting, has sticky saliva, shows signs of dizziness, and/or vomits, cool your pet as soon as possible. In California, a bill is being considered which would protect someone who breaks a window to rescue a dog in a hot car.
Remember that safety is a daily priority. Maintaining a state of preparedness is essential for every month of the year, no matter the temperature. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.