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High Temps Fraught With Danger

As many parts of the country swelter in high temperatures, the risk of heat-related illness increases.

The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explains that people can run into some serious heat-related health problems.

Those at the highest risk include children under four, people over 65, and those who are obese, already ill, or taking medications.

Heat can cause trouble both indoors or outdoors.

Among the potential problems is heat exhaustion, which is the result of prolonged exposure to heat and insufficient body fluid. Symptoms can include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness headache and nausea or vomiting. Heat exhaustion can affect the elderly, people with high blood pressure, and those who work outside.

Outdoor workers may also be prone to heat rash from prolonged sweating, or heat cramps from too much exertion.

Normally, Senay points out, we cool down by sweating, but in extreme heat, the body can lose its ability to regulate temperature. The sweating function fails and body temperature rises rapidly, resulting in heat stroke, a serious medical condition that can damage the brain and other organs, and even kill you.

Warning signs of heat stroke vary, but you want to watch out for red, hot and dry skin, a rapid, strong pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness.

If you think someone might be suffering from heat stroke, call 911, then cool them down any way you can until help arrives. Get them to shade or an air conditioned area. Spray or sponge them with cold water, or immerse them in a tub of cold water if possible. If it's not too humid, you can wrap the victim in a wet sheet and fan them vigorously. You want to get their temperature to go down to 101 to 102 degrees.

To avoid problems stemming from the heat, Senay advises that you drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids, pace yourself when working outdoors, replace salts and minerals, wear lightweight clothing, seek air conditioning, and take cold showers.

Use common sense, she adds: Schedule your outdoor activities to avoid the hottest parts of the day, take frequent breaks if you work outdoors, and use a buddy system if necessary to keep watch on those at high risk.

If you don't have air conditioning where you live, try to find a public place that does, such as a mall or library. Just a few hours of air conditioning a day can reduce the risk of heat-related illness, Senay notes.