Heat Stress: Be Aware of the Signs of Heat Related Illness

Weather Talk

POSTED: Monday, June 16, 2014 - 8:17am

UPDATED: Monday, June 16, 2014 - 8:41am

Taking precautions, recognizing the signs and knowing safety tips can keep you and those around you safe when it's hot

Last week was designated “Monsoon Awareness Week”  by the National Weather Service offices of the southwest. Each day had a different, important weather safety topic.  I missed two of the topics Monday because of my vacation and Friday due to strong outflow storm winds. I did not want  to miss the two topics here in "Weather Talk", so I will cover “Heat Stress” today and “Flash Flooding” tomorrow.

Excessive heat and heat waves have caused more deaths on average in the last ten years than any other Weather hazard including tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding. Many visitors and even some residents here in the Borderland and the desert southwest think that since relative humidity is low. This is not true. Now extra humidity does make it more difficult for the body to cool itself. Our drier desert heat can still cause many health problems and be dangerous. In today’s “Weather Talk” I will talk about the various heat related illnesses, what we need to do protect ourselves and about some of the safety precautions we need to take to prevent any accidents or tragedies.

A study in the New Mexico Epidemiology Medical Journal in 2012 took a look at heat related cases between the years of 2008-2012 of patients that were admitted at 36 non federal acute care hospitals, The study found there were 526 heat stress Emergency Room visits of New Mexico Residents. Overall, June and July had the highest number heat stress related visits.

The National Weather Service says to remember the H.E.A.T in heat stress.

Hydrate, whether you feel thirsty of not, drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated

Educate yourself; keep up with the latest forecasts and current temperature and heat index readings. Know the   warning signs of heat illness and how to stay cool.

Act quickly when a heat illness is suspected. Seek medical attention immediately for any of these signs: cramping, rapid pulse, heavy sweating, red hot skin., dizziness, confusion, nausea and vomiting.

Take it easy, anyone working or exercising outdoors should avoid over exertion, especially between the hours of 11 A.M.. and 6 P.M..

The two main medical conditions that can be brought on by the heat are “heat exhaustion and “heat stroke”
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, NOAA.gov list what the symptoms are and what you should do:

o Heavy sweating
o Weakness
o Cool, pale, clammy skin
o Weak pulse
o Possible muscle cramps
o Dizziness
o Nausea and vomiting
o Fainting
o Normal temperature possible
• First Aid:
o Move person to a cooler environment
o Remove or loosen clothing
o Apply cool, wet cloths
o Fan or move victim to air conditioned room
o Offer sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.

HEAT STROKE (or sunstroke)
• Symptoms:

o Altered mental state
o Possible throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathing
o High body temperature (106°F or higher)
o Skin may be hot and dry, or patient may be sweating
o Rapid pulse
o Possible unconsciousness
• First Aid:
o Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
o Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment
o Reduce body temperature with a water mister and fan or sponging
o Use fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s
o Use extreme caution
o If temperature rises again, repeat process
o Do NOT give fluids

The National Weather Service loves their slogans and they are all good but this is a very important one:
“Beat the Heat and Check the Back Seat”

Temperatures inside a vehicle can increase nearly 30º in 20 minutes!
• Never leave a child or Ta pet unattended in a vehicle, Not Even for a Minute!
• If you see a child unattended in a vehicle, call 9-1-1 immediately!
Child Reminder Tips
• Keep a stuff animal in the car seat, when the child is put in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in front with the driver
• Place a purse or a briefcase in the back seat as a reminder that you have a child in the car
• Make sure you “look before you leave” a routine whenever you get out of the car

More Heat Facts you should know

Nation's #1 weather-related killer
• Heat stroke is an emergency — call 911
Stay inside in a cool ventilated place whenever possible
• Restrict outdoor activities to early morning or evening
• If you must be outside, wear loose-fitting, light clothing
Drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks
Frequently check on the young, elderly, and those with health conditions
Don't leave small children in vehicles

Now you have some important information to keep yourself and those around you safe from the blazing summer heat. You also should copy the signs of heat related illness so if you see a person experiencing these symptoms you can get them the medical attention they need right away. I have said this before in two other “Weather Talk” articles use O.PA.C. Other People’s Air Conditioning to beat the heat, The shopping mall, a restaurant, a library, a museum or even the airport! Here in the Borderland we can be hot into the beginning of October, so remember to hydrate, stay out of the mid and late day sun and find a cool spot to ride out the heat,

Chuck DeBroder, Chief Meteorologist
KTSM, NewsChannel 9, NBC, El Paso, TX

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