Hot, humid and lacking in cooling rains has been the July weather forecast so far this month. There’s not much hope of change so be sure you know how to survive a summer heat wave.
Hot weather, combined with outdoor activities, makes it hard for our bodies to stay cool. Hyperthermia occurs when the body’s heat-regulating processes fail and your body’s temperature is dangerously high. Hyperthermia can happen quickly and can make you sick or even cause death.
The term hyperthermia includes heat stroke, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or fatigue, or dizziness from prolonged exposure to the heat. Other symptoms include lack of sweating, dry flushed skin, strong rapid pulse, dizziness or fainting, staggering, confusion or combativeness. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature hits 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hyperthermia, according to the National Institutes of Health, is more likely to occur if you are:
- Dehydrated; if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated
- Older, especially if you have one or more chronic health conditions, or have poor blood circulation
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
- A heart, lung or kidney disease patient
- Ill with a fever and/or have general weakness
- Have high blood pressure or are on a salt-restricted diet
- Taking medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers, and some heart and blood pressure drugs
- Exercising or working outside during the hottest part of the day
Here’s how to stay cool and survive Arkansas’ infamous heat-humidity combo. Do not ignore heat and humidity; they are killers. Older people and the very young, as well as those with chronic health conditions are more vulnerable and should take the following precautions:
- Stay indoors in an air-conditioned place when the heat and humidity combine to push the “Heat Index” over 100 degrees F. Danger is higher when air pollution is also high.
- If your home isn’t air conditioned, go to an enclosed shopping mall, library, movie theatre, public cooling center, or visit family or friends who have air conditioning. The most crucial hours are generally in the afternoon from 1 to 6 p.m.
If you suspect someone is suffering from a heat-related problem:
- Get him or her out of the heat and into a shady area or air-conditioned place.
- Urge them to lie down.
- Apply a cold, wet cloth to the neck, wrists, armpits and groin areas for fastest cooling of the blood.
- Help him or her to bathe or sponge off with cool water.
- If the person can swallow safely, offer cool water, fruit or vegetable juices. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- If you suspect heat stroke, or he or she becomes unresponsive or has trouble breathing, call 9-1-1 immediately.