NC DHHS Encourages Caution as Warmer Temperatures Arrive

NC DHHS Encourages Caution as Warmer Temperatures Arrive

By / State News / Wednesday, 17 June 2015 04:00

RALEIGH, N.C. : June 11th, 2015 - As North Carolina enters the first stretch of consecutive days of 90-degree temperatures this summer, health officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) are urging citizens to take extra precautions against heat-related illnesses.
"Increased temperatures affect everyone, but children, the elderly, those who work outside and those with chronic health conditions are most vulnerable to illness during the summer months," said Dr. Megan Davies, Acting State Health Director and State Epidemiologist. "Simple actions can prevent severe illnesses, trips to the emergency room and even death."
The symptoms of heat stress include muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, fainting, headaches, nausea and vomiting, and are easily avoidable with proper precautions.
To reduce risk of heat-related illness:
• Increase your fluid intake
• Spend some time in cool or air-conditioned environments
• Reduce normal activity levels
• Speak with your physician about how to stay safe if you take medicines that can impede heat loss such as drugs for high blood pressure, migraines, allergies, muscle spasms, mental illness and tranquilizers
In addition to these steps, Operation Fan/Heat Relief offers people who are 60 or older, or people with disabilities, the opportunity to receive one fan per year to help alleviate heat problems in their home. For more information on Operation Fan/Heat Relief, please contact your local Social Services Department.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov), Getting too hot can make you sick. You can become ill from the heat if your body can't compensate for it and properly cool you off. Heat exposure can even kill you: it caused 7,233 heat-related deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2009.
Main things affecting your body's ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather:
• High humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat won't evaporate as quickly, which keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to.
• Personal factors. Age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather.
People at greatest risk for heat-related illness can take the following protective actions to prevent illness or death:
• People who are at highest risk are the elderly, the very young, and people with chronic diseases or mental illness.
• Even young and healthy people can get sick from the heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.
• Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned.
Take these steps to prevent heat-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths during hot weather:
• Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location as much as possible.
• Drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel thirsty.
• Schedule outdoor activities carefully.
• Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
• Pace yourself.
• Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
• Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
• Do not leave children or pets in cars.
• Check the local news for health and safety updates.
Heat Exhaustion
• Heavy sweating
• Weakness
• Cold, pale, and clammy skin
• Fast, weak pulse
• Nausea or vomiting
• Fainting
Heat Stroke
• High body temperature (above 103°F)*
• Hot, red, dry or moist skin
• Rapid and strong pulse
• Possible unconsciousness
What You Should Do:
• Move to a cooler location.
• Lie down and loosen your clothing.
• Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible.
• Sip water.
• If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.
What You Should Do:
• Call 911 immediately — this is a medical emergency.
• Move the person to a cooler environment.
• Reduce the person's body temperature with cool cloths or even a bath.
•  Do NOT give fluids.
What happens to the body as a result of exposure to extreme heat?
People suffer heat-related illness when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs. Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions that can limit the ability to regulate temperature include old age, youth (age 0-4), obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug use and alcohol use.
What should I do if I see someone with any of the warning signs of heat stroke?
• If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency.
Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim. Do the following:
• Get the victim to a shady area.
• Cool the victim rapidly, using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
• Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F.
• If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
• Do not give the victim alcohol to drink.
•  Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
What is heat exhaustion?
• Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.
Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, those with high blood pressure, and those working or exercising in a hot environment.
What is heat rash?
• Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children. Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.
What is the best treatment for heat rash?
• The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected area dry. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort.
Can medications increase the risk of heat-related illness?
• The risk for heat-related illness and death may increase among people using the following drugs: (1) psychotropics, which
affect psychic function, behavior, or experience (e.g. haloperidol or chlorpromazine); (2) medications for Parkinson’s disease, because they can inhibit perspiration; (3) tranquilizers such as phenothiazines, butyrophenones, and thiozanthenes; and (4) diuretic medications or "water pills" that affect fluid balance in the body.

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