Friday, July 22, 2011

Nature Guide: Beware of the Heat

No one needs to tell us this summer has been one of the hottest on record, and there seems to be no end in sight. All this heat and humidity can cause serious illness, including heat stroke. Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer gives us tips on how to stay safe when it's so hot.

"Exposure to heat can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which can lead to illness and death. But there are some simple precautions you can take if you have to be outside when the temperature is very high.

"Stay out of the direct sun. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Drink plenty of fluids before you become thirsty. When working in the heat, you need at least one pint of water per hour, but you should avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine. You should also take frequent water breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned area.

"Be aware that poor physical condition, some health problems (such as high blood pressure or diabetes), pregnancy, colds and flu, and some medications can increase your personal risk. If you are undergoing some treatment or taking medicine regularly, you may want to ask your doctor about possible reactions to excessive heat.

"The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, dizziness or fainting. A person may feel thirsty and weak or dizzy, and their skin may be clammy. They may become irritable or confused and complain of nausea. Heat stroke is more extreme. The person may become confused and unable to think clearly, and may collapse or pass out.

"If you notice that someone is not alert or seems confused, this may be a sign of a heat stroke. CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY. Then move the person to a cooler area and remove their outer clothing. Fan the person and, if you can, mist the person with water. If ice is available (such as ice bags or iced towels), apply it directly to the skin. If the person is able to drink, give them cool water. Above all, make sure that someone stays with the person until help arrives. Heat stroke is too dangerous not to take quick action. It is always better to be safe than sorry."