Temperatures throughout Missouri will climb up through the 90s and past the 100-degree mark this weekend. The Department of Health is reminding folks to know the signs of heat-related illnesses. Last year, 47 people died from the heat, and the majority of them were not elderly.
- Heat Cramps
- Heat cramps are the first sign that the body is struggling to regulate temperature. Muscle spasms affect the arms, legs, or stomach. Frequently they don’t occur until later at night, and are caused by heavy sweating, especially when water is replaced by drinking, but not salt or potassium. Although heat cramps can be quite painful, they usually don’t result in permanent damage.
- Heat Exhaustion
- Heat exhaustion is more serious and happens when the body’s internal air-conditioning system is overworked, but hasn’t completely shut down. The surface blood vessels and capillaries which originally enlarged to cool the blood collapse from loss of body fluids and necessary minerals. This happens when you don’t drink enough fluids to replace what you’re sweating away.Symptoms include: headache, heavy sweating, intense thirst, dizziness, fatigue, loss of coordination, nausea, impaired judgment, loss of appetite, hyperventilation, tingling in hands or feet, anxiety, cool moist skin, weak and rapid pulse (120-200), and low to normal blood pressure.Somebody suffering these symptoms should be moved to a cool location such as a shaded area or air-conditioned building. Have them lie down with their feet slightly elevated. Loosen their clothing, apply cool, wet cloths or fan them. Have them drink water or electrolyte drinks. Getting them checked by a physician is a good idea. They should continue to drink water to replace lost body fluids over the course of the next 24 hours.
- Heat Stroke
- Heat stroke is a life threatening illness with a high death rate. It occurs when the body has depleted its supply of water and salt, and the victim’s body temperature rises to deadly levels. The body’s ability to regulate temperature completely shuts down. A heat stroke victim may first suffer heat cramps and/or the heat exhaustion before progressing into the heat stroke stage, but this is not always the case. If someone is working hard when it happens, it can present as a heart attack, often causing confusion for people around them.
- The early symptoms of heat stroke include a high body temperature (103 degrees); a distinct absence of sweating (usually); hot red or flushed dry skin; rapid pulse; difficulty breathing; constricted pupils; any/all the signs or symptoms of heat exhaustion such as dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, or confusion, but more severe; bizarre behavior; and high blood pressure. Advance symptoms may be seizure or convulsions, collapse, loss of consciousness, and a body temperature of over 108 degrees.Pour water on them, fan them, or apply cold packs . Call 911.
- Condition yourself for working in hot environments – start slowly then build up to more physical work. Allow your body to adjust over a few days.
- Drink lots of liquids. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Electrolyte drinks, such as Gatorade, are good for replacing both water and minerals lost through sweating. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Take a break if you get a headache or start feeling overheated.
- Get enough sleep at night.