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Extreme Heat Incoming!

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The temperatures around Missouri have been getting higher and higher each day it seems. The summer decided it was tired of waiting and showed up early this year. We aren’t hitting record highs yet, but have been close almost every day. That is some extreme heat. The kids are also out of school, which means more time spent outside and playing with family and friends. Should you be worried about the heat? How can I tell if I’m at risk of a heat illness, and what can I do about it?

Heat illness is an issue that impacts a lot of people. Especially when we get sudden heat swells in the summer. You may have even seen some heat advisories lately. That is there for a good reason. The average number of deaths each year due to heat is 702 people. Many more go to the hospital in bad condition due to excessive heat. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself, is recognizing the signs that someone might be having a heat-related illness. Especially if you manage an outdoor worksite, gym, or sports team.

 

The Signs

When looking at the signs of heat-illness we need to understand what stage of the illness they are in. Early, it might show up as heat cramps. Those are cramps that occur in the limbs, but can also occur in the abdomen or intestines. That is a surefire sign that you are out of balance with your body’s heat, water, and electrolytes. The next stage is more of what people refer to as heat exhaustion. At this point someone might say that they are actually starting to feel cold. They could have headaches, feel faint or dizzy, feel tired, vomit, and have changes in their normal pulse to be weaker and faster. Also be on the look out for pale skin. The final and most serious of the stages is heat stroke. Here we can see if their oral temperature is above 103-104 Fahrenheit. At this point, their core body temperature could be raising closer to 106-108. They could be completely confused or unconscious with a rapid pulse and hot DRY skin. This indicates that their body has completely failed at trying to stay cool and they can’t recover on their own.

 

What do I do?

In the first two stages, those being cramps and exhaustion, they may not need emergency care. However, if you don’t feel comfortable making that decision or have any doubt, you absolutely should call for an ambulance. Otherwise, it would be best to find a cool and shady spot. You should also remove excess clothing and take small sips of a sports drink or water. If tings do not seem like they are getting better, then contact your local healthcare provider or go to the hospital. With heatstroke, there is no guessing. They absolutely need emergency medical attention, and you need to call 9-1-1. While waiting, administer CPR if needed and try to cool the body with whatever means you have available. Ice packs in the groin, armpits, backs of the knees, neck, and wrists. Or cool rags or a cool damp sheet.

 

How to avoid the situation

Listen to advisories. Don’t go out for prolonged periods of time in high heat if you aren’t already used to it or have prepared for it. Loose fitting clothing that can breathe is a must. You should also make sure you eat enough prior to going outside and that you are properly hydrated. In major cities, they will also have designated cooling areas or public buildings you can step inside to cool off in. We love that people are going out and being active and soaking up the sun. Just stay safe and try to stay cool out there!

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