Preventing Heat Illness In The Texas Heat
Summer is finally here which means temperatures are going to soar even higher than usual. Here in Killeen we can look forward to temperatures as high as the mid- to high-90s. Lovely. Heat injuries are a big concern down here, especially for children, older people and new arrivals that are not yet fully acclimatized to the Texan weather. Our daily lives don’t stop for the heat so we must play it safe and protect ourselves.
What Heat Injuries Should I be Concerned About?
Between 2003 and 2008, 263 Texan residents died from exposure to “excessive natural heat”. The majority of the deaths occurred in July and August bit some deaths were recorded in winter months too. Common heat injuries and illnesses include:
Anyone living in a hot climate has a risk of developing one of these conditions. The risks are higher for people who are not used to the climate and people who have underlying medical conditions as well as children and the elderly.
Prevention Is Better Than A Cure!
Treatments are available for people suffering from a heat illness but you should aim to protect yourself and not become sick in the first place. Common sense is the key to keeping yourself safe and healthy during periods of extreme heat. Other steps include:
- Drinking water, even when you are not thirsty
- If outdoors, take frequent rests in a shaded area
- Wear a hat, preferably a wide brimmed hat in a pale color
- Wear light colored clothes
- Wear sunscreen and reapply it regularly
- Try to avoid the sun between 10 am and 2 pm
- Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption
- Turn on the A/C if you are driving
- Stay cool by taking a cool shower or going for a dip in an indoor pool
Recognize the Symptoms of Heat Injury and Illness
Accidents happen so even people taking all the right precautions may still be struck down with a heat injury or illness. Identifying the symptoms early will allow you to seek help quickly if you become sick. Symptoms can vary from illness to illness but common symptoms are:
- Dark colored urine
- Nausea and/or vomiting and diarrhea
- Muscle and stomach cramps
- Slow heartbeat
- Flushed skin
- Increased body temperature
- Sweats with clammy skin
- Shortness of breath
If you or someone you are with experiences any of these symptoms while in the heat, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Children & Heat
Children’s little bodies put them at an increased risk of developing a heat injury. Heat cramp is particularly common in kids. The same prevention methods and symptoms apply for children. However, a child may not realize how ill they are so it’s the responsibility of grown-ups to look out for signs of heat illness. You can provide kids with some extra protection by:
- Placing a cool damp cloth on their skin
- Giving them fluids that contain salt and sugar e.g. sports drinks
- Teaching them to be sun smart and staying indoors or in the shade during peak sunshine and heat hours
- Reminding them to drink water even when they are not thirsty
The Elderly & Heat
Older people have an increased risk of developing a heat illness due to other medical issues they may have. Heart and blood pressure medications or low-sodium diets can be a contributing factor of heat illnesses. Normal aging also causes changes to the skin, sweat glands and circulatory system which mean older people are physically less capable to deal with extreme heat. The same preventative measures work for the elderly too. Heat stroke is the heat illness most commonly suffered by the elderly so keep an eye on any seniors in your life this summer.
The Family Pet & Heat
We shouldn’t forget about Fluffy the cat or Oscar the puppy during the summer months. Pets can also fall victim to excessive heat but they respond to heat differently than humans. Try to limit exercise during hot days. Fans and air conditioners are not very effective in keeping animals cool so make sure your pet has somewhere shady to rest and make sure to leave plenty of water and ice cubes around for the animal. And, of course, never leave a pet in a parked car with the windows closed during a heat wave.
Have fun in the sun this summer but remember to stay safe! We want you to enjoy as much of the summer as possible.
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