Originally created 07/10/01

Heat calls for precautions



Summer can provide lots of enjoyment, yet it can be extremely dangerous if you are unprepared for the heat.

According to the American Family Physician, 240 die each year of complications from heat- related illnesses. People who work outdoors, older adults, athletes and people taking certain medicines are at risk for developing heat-related illnesses.

Head off problems by drinking plenty of fluids during the day. Water, juice and iced drinks are best. Alcohol should be avoided because it dehydrates the body. If you have trouble remembering to drink fluids throughout the day, keep a log and mark off each time you drink a glass of water or juice. If you are susceptible to heat-related illness, try to drink fluids each hour.

You also should avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun and exertion during the hottest part of the day, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wear protective clothing such as a hat and sunglasses whenever you go out in the heat. Wear loose clothing that allows your skin to "breathe" and use plenty of sunscreen.

Keep your house cool by leaving the range off in hot weather. Prepare cold meals - sandwiches, salads or frozen yogurt. There are countless recipe books on the market that can give you lots of creative, cool ideas for summertime meals.

There are several heat-related ailments.

Heat rash is characterized by small pink bumps on the skin that itch or sting. Giving your skin room to breathe by wearing loose clothing can help you avoid this rash. If you are a caregiver, be sure the person's clothing is not too restrictive and check regularly for signs of heat rash.

Heat exhaustion is characterized by cool, clammy skin, excessive perspiration, dilated pupils, rapid pulse, headache, nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramps, dizziness or unconsciousness.

Someone suffering heat exhaustion should be moved to a cool location. Have the person lie down with the feet elevated and cool the body down with a cool cloth on the skin, a fan or a cool drink. Call the doctor if the person does not improve significantly within a few hours.

Heat stroke, the most serious heat-related illness, can be deadly. This condition is characterized by a temperature of 102 degrees or higher, flushed/hot skin, a lack of sweating, constricted pupils, confusion, rapid pulse, seizures or unconsciousness. Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke. Move the individual to a cool location until help arrives. Apply cool clothes and fan the person, but give no food or drink.

Write Shirley McIntosh at Resource Center on Aging, 2803 Wrightsboro Road, Suite 51, Augusta, GA 30909.