Heat hints: Surviving the Texas summer
Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Mark K. Campbell
Kinda hot out there.
We’re Texans so heat is to be expected in the summer but taking precautions is essential.
Stay coolSounds easy – just stay inside. But some folks have to work outdoors and others must make occasional trips outside.
Staying hydrated is the key to avoiding a heat injury.
Water is best. It’s a good idea to drink every hour even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks should be avoided.
Sweating is a good thing, even if it removes fluids; perspiring is the body’s natural cooling mechanism.
Working or playing outdoors in extreme temperatures can quickly cause heat problems.
Even observers of outdoor activities – i.e., at youth sporting events – are also susceptible to being overcome.
“Anyone can be at risk of succumbing to the heat,” said Dr. Sandra Parker, Tarrant County Public Health Medical Director/Health Authority.
Dress appropriately in light colored, loose clothes.
Take frequent breaks out of direct sunlight.
Avoid the hottest part of the day if possible.
Reduce the level of your activity.
Eat light meals during the day.
Wear sunblock and reapply as directed.
Wear sunglasses to protect eyes.
Be aware that some prescriptions (like diuretics and beta blockers) can change how sun and heat can affect you.
Drink, drink, drink!
You’re in trouble when...
When cramping begins, your body is telling you a heat emergency is underway.
Heat cramps are the first level of heat distress. Muscle spasms are caused by salt loss via sweating. You’ll also likely be fatigued.
Moving to a cooler place, and getting into a comfortable position, massaging muscles, and drinking water every 15 minutes should handle this most minor of heat emergencies.
If heat cramps are not taken care of, next comes heat exhaustion.
Heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, weak but rapid pulse, dark urine, muscle cramps, and headaches are all signs of impending trouble. If it is heat exhaustion immediately seek treatment.
To recover: find some shade, drink water but slowly, and make sure there is good ventilation.
If physical deterioration continues, heatstroke could be on the horizon and that is a true emergency, a killer.
If sweating stops and the skin becomes hot, red, and dry, a serious heat emergency has arrived.
Other stroke symptoms include a rapid pulse combined with quick, shallow breathing and vomiting.
Seizures and irrational behavior could also occur.
Call 911 immediately should these symptoms arise.
Heatstroke can cause shock, brain damage, organ failure, and even death.
While waiting for professional help, move the victim to a cool place; loosen tight clothing and remove perspiration-soaked clothes; apply wet cloths directly to the skin; fan the person; give small amounts of water if the person is still conscious; and place ice packs on wrists, ankles, armpits, groin, and neck.
– wet skin = exhaustion
– dry skin = stroke.
It’s a good idea to regularly check on friends, neighbors, family, and the elderly.
Inside, keep air circulating. Turning off air conditioning or not running it long enough or not using fans to move air is inviting a heat emergency.
Directors of outdoor programs should remain aware of the heat, provide plenty of water, and monitor participants, providing them sufficient time during workouts/games to cool down.
Children, the obese, those injured, athletes, outdoor workers, and the elderly are most susceptible to heat stresses. But even a fit person can succumb if warning signs are ignored.