Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: "Heat Emergencies"

Summer is coming. What's something to watch out for on those gloriously sunny days?

How about physical issues related to the heat - or, as the National Institute of Health refers to them "Heat Emergencies". At the extreme end of such issues, you can die. In fact, the Red Cross says:
In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods.
The best idea is to stay out of the heat.

Failing that, though, it is a good idea to have some idea of what to look for to see if the heat is getting to you or to your kids, friends, co-workers, etc.

"Heat Emergencies" come in three types:
Heat emergencies fall into three categories of increasing severity: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.

"Heat Cramps":
Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur during heavy exercise in hot environments. The spasms may be more intense and more prolonged than are typical nighttime leg cramps. Inadequate fluid intake often contributes to heat cramps.
If you suspect heat cramps

- Rest briefly and cool down
- Drink clear juice or an electrolyte-containing sports drink
- Practice gentle, range-of-motion stretching and gentle massage of the affected muscle group
- Don't resume strenuous activity for several hours or longer after heat cramps go away
- Call your doctor if your cramps don't go away within one hour or so
You see heat cramps during football and basketball games on hot days (on in hot gyms), when an athlete falls down, writhing in pain. Unpleasant but rarely fatal.

"Heat Exhaustion":
Heat exhaustion is a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of your body overheating.
Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition.

Image Source
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Heavy sweating
- Faintness
- Dizziness
- Fatigue
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure upon standing
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea
- Headache
Stop activity, get to a cooler spot, drink cool water or sports drinks.

"Heat Stroke":
Heatstroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or by doing physical activity in hot weather. You are considered to have heatstroke when your body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. High humidity, certain health problems and some medications increase your risk of heatstroke. So does being a young child or older adult.

Heatstroke is the progression of two worsening heat-related conditions. When your body overheats, you first may develop heat cramps. If you don't cool down, you may progress to symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as heavy sweating, nausea, lightheadedness and feeling faint.

Heatstroke occurs if your body temperature continues to rise. At this point, emergency treatment is needed. In a period of hours, untreated heatstroke can cause damage to your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. These injuries get worse the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.
Heatstroke symptoms include:

- High body temperature. A body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
- A lack of sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel moist.
- Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
- Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
- Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
- Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
- Headache. You may experience a throbbing headache.
- Confusion. You may have seizures, hallucinate, or have difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying.
- Unconsciousness. You may pass out or fall into a state of deep unconsciousness (coma).
- Muscle cramps or weakness. Your muscles may feel tender or cramped in the early stages of heatstroke, but may later go rigid or limp.
Call for emergency help - in the meantime,
Take immediate action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment.

Help the person move to a shaded location and remove excess clothing.
Place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person's head, neck, armpits and groin.
Mist the person with water while a fan is blowing on him or her.

Also, don't forget to take care of your pets when it's hot out there. Dogs and cats are susceptible to heat stroke, too. Advice for dogs here. Advice for cats here.

Red Cross pet advice . One key for pets is to never, ever leave them in a closed car in the summer.

Some good ideas:
1. Keep plenty of cool water on hand if you plan to be out in the heat.
2. Wear a hat or other head covering.
3. Drink water before you feel the need.
4. Stay in the shade if you can. If nothing else try to work it so that you rotate to a cooler spot for part of every hour.

OSHA has a program:
To prevent heat related illness and fatalities:

- Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
- Rest in the shade to cool down.
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
- Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
- Keep an eye on fellow workers.
- "Easy does it" on your first days of work in the heat. You need to get used to it.

If workers are new to working in the heat or returning from more than a week off, and for all workers on the first day of a sudden heat wave, implement a work schedule to allow them to get used to the heat gradually.

Remember these three simple words: Water, Rest, Shade. Taking these precautions can mean the difference between life and death.
The CDC has tips:
The best defense is prevention. *** Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library–even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
Have a good summer, but be safe.

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