In extremely hot weather, officials at the Michigan Department of Community Health say everyone should take precautions and look for ways to stay cool.
Any time temperatures reach the high 80s and above, body temperature may rise. This can result in muscle cramps, dizziness, severe heat illness and even death. Heat illness can occur when the body is unable to cool down. The body normally cools down by sweating, but during extremely hot weather, sweating may not be enough to cool the body. That’s when the risk of overheating to the point of becoming ill occurs.
Young children and the elderly are most vulnerable.
Tips to Avoid Heat Illness:
• Use air conditioning or spend time in air-conditioned locations, when possible.
• Take a cool bath, shower, or swim.
• Minimize direct exposure to the sun.
• Limit time outdoors as much as possible, but take frequent breaks if you must be outside.
• Stay hydrated – drink water or nonalcoholic fluids.
• Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothes.
• Check on your neighbors, friends and family members, especially those who are older or have health issues.
• Never leave children, the elderly, or pets unattended in a vehicle. Even with the windows rolled down, or just for a few minutes, it is never OK to leave anyone in a vehicle in extreme heat.
• Use a fan when the windows are open or the air conditioner is on as the weather begins to heat up. Once the temperature reaches the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat illness.
Understanding Heat Illness:
1. Dehydration is the first stage of heat-related illness. Dehydration occurs when body fluids are lost, and not replaced, by sweating. Symptoms include dry mouth, thirst, headache, dizziness, cramps, excessive fatigue and irritability.
If you are experiencing dehydration, move to a shaded or air-conditioned area, replace fluids by drinking water, and consult a physician if symptoms persist or if there is an existing condition that could be complicated by increased fluid intake.
2. The next, more serious stage of heat-related illness is heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid place where body fluid loss occurs greatly from sweating. This fluid loss can cause reduced blood flow to vital organs, which results in shock.
Signs of heat exhaustion include headache, moist and pale skin, nausea, dizziness, weakness and exhaustion. To treat exhaustion, seek shade or a cool place. Drink a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes, remove or loosen any tight clothing, and apply a cool, wet towel or compress. Heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke, so if symptoms persist or worsen, seek emergency medical treatment.
3. Heat stroke is the most severe stage of heat-related illness. A heat stroke, also called sunstroke, can be deadly. Symptoms include vomiting, decreased alertness level or complete loss of consciousness, high body temperature (sometimes as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit) or red, hot, and dry skin with a rapid, weak pulse.
Call 911 for immediate medical help and try to cool the person down. If possible, put them in a tub of cool water or shower them with a garden hose.