- Written by Jessica Riel
- Published: 08 June 2015
While it may feel like it’s been here since the beginning of May, the very first day of summer is actually June 21.
Whether or not you enjoy the heat and the sun that summer brings, we should all be prepared to handle extreme heat, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening, particularly for older adults, young children, and those who are sick or overweight.
Heat-related disorders that may threaten our health include:
Heat cramps, which are muscular pains and spasms, especially in the abdomen and legs, caused by heavy exertion and loss of water due to heavy sweating; those affected should be transported to a cool place to rest in a comfortable position and drink a half-full glass of water every 15 minutes.
Heat exhaustion, which is also caused by heavy sweating and overexertion in a warm, humid place; this mild form of shock is brought on by decreased blood flow to the skin and vital organs. Look for cool, moist skin that is either pale or flushed; dizziness; headache; and/or nausea. Treat an affected person by moving him/her to a cool place to rest comfortably; removing or loosening tight clothing; applying cool, damp compresses; and making sure the person, if conscious, slowly drinks a half glass of cool water every fifteen minutes. Keep alert for changes in their condition, as heat exhaustion can intensify into…
Heat stroke, which is a life-threatening emergency wherein a person’s temperature control system shuts down, turning off the body’s ability to produce sweat and cool itself and placing the person at risk of brain-damage or even death from a rising body temperature. Symptoms include red, hot skin; changes of consciousness; a rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; and body temperatures that can rise to 105 degrees. Skin will be dry unless the person was sweating from heavy work or exercise. Call 911 for immediate assistance and move the person to a cool place where he/she can be immersed, lying down, in a cool bath or wrapped in wet sheets. Watch for breathing problems and do not provide food or drink if there is vomiting, changes in the level of consciousness, or the person refuses water.
Steps to prepare before extreme heat
Early preparations can prevent a heat-related problem from arising. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) suggests the following:
- Install air conditioners snugly, insulating if necessary.
- Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sun with drapes, shades, awnings, or louvers. Outdoor awnings or louvers can reduce the heat that enters a home by up to 80%.
- Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes.
- Get trained in first aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.
With these tips, you will be better prepared to enjoy the summer season, no matter the temperature outside.