Too much heat and humidity can make people seriously ill, especially elderly and very young individuals, reports CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.
People with chronic health problems such as high blood pressure and respiratory problems like asthma have to be take extra precautions as well. In general, those who work outside, such as police officers, construction workers and firefighters, all have to be careful not to spend too much time in the heat.
The most serious health concern on hot days is heat stroke. The condition can be deadly, and occurs when the body's temperature rises above 104 degrees. The body can no longer compensate for the heat by sweating. Organs begin to fail, and the body starts to shut down. Victims should go to a hospital emergency room for immediate treatment.
The symptoms include:
- Dry, hot and red skin.
- Dark urine.
- Extreme confusion.
- Rapid, shallow breathing.
- Rapid, weak pulse.
Heat exhaustion is less serious and usually occurs when the body loses too much water or salt through sweating. People with heat exhaustion can still sweat, but their bodies have trouble compensating for the high temperatures. Someone with heat exhaustion can be treated in an emergency room with fluids, administered orally and intravenously.
The symptoms include:
Treatment for all heat-related illnesses is basically the same. The victim should be taken out of the heat, laid down with feet elevated and cooled down as quickly as possible. Use a fan, a wet sheet and a cold compress on the victim's neck, groin and armpits. As with any serious illness, always consult a doctor.
Preventing heat illnesses means taking a few precautions and allowing your body to adjust to the rising temperatures. Here are some tips on taking the heat out of summer:
- Wear light clothing. If you have to go out in the sun, wear a hat and protect your eyes from harsh light with sunglasses.
- Stay indoors and out of the sun, especially during the hottest part of the day.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks. They increase urine output, which can lead to dehydration.
Most health experts suggest drinking about eight glasses of water a day. People lose about 10 cups of water daily through perspiration, urine and bowel movements. Keep replenishing your body with liquid to maintain proper kidney function. Fruit juices and sports beverages also can help replace the salt and minerals lost from sweating.
- Never leave anyone in a locked car during the hot weather, even for just a few minutes. Temperatures can rise quickly in the car, leaving those inside to suffer heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Both conditions are serious, and heat stroke can be fatal.
- Don't rely on fans for cooling. Get air conditioning for at least an hour a day. Movie theaters, malls and churches are some places where you can cool off if there's no air conditioning at home.
- If you don't have easy access to air conditioning, a cool shower or bath is also a good way to lower your body temperature.