Watch CBSN Live

High Temps, Power Costs Could Mean More Heat-Related Illness

There are fears that high temperatures, coupled with the rising cost of electricity in some areas--particularly out west--could result in an increase in heat-related illness this summer.

CBS health correspondent Dr. Emily Senay talked to the Early Show about how summer heat can harm your health.

The current energy problems in the West could contribute to some people's summer heat health woes, she says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is concerned that the rising cost of electricity is occurring in some of the hottest parts of the country during the summer, she says. California and parts of the Southwest are being especially hard-hit. If people try lower their bills by turning off their air conditioners, they could run into some serious heat-related health problems, says Senay--especially kids under the age of 4, seniors over the age of 65, and people who are obese, already ill, or taking medications.

There are a number of problems that can occur, she says. Normally our bodies 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.

Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that can damage the brain and other organs, and even kill you, Senay says.

The symptoms can vary, she says, but you want to watch out for red, hot, and dry skin; rapid strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness.

If you think someone might be suffering from heat stroke, call 911, and then cool them down any way you can until help arrives, says Senay. Get them to the 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, she says.

Heat exhaustion, while not as serious as heat stroke, is another heat-related health problem. It's the result of prolonged exposure to heat and not enough body fluid, Senay says.

The symptoms of heat exhaustion can be similar to heat stroke. Heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, and nausea or vomiting are a few.

Heat exhaustion can affect the elderly, people with high blood pressure, and those who work outside, says Senay. Outdoor workers may also be vulnerable to heat rash from prolonged sweating or to heat cramps from too much exertion.

To avoid these problems, drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids, pace yourself when working outdoors, replace salts and minerals, wear lightweight clothing, seek air conditioning, take cold showers--and use common sense. Schedule your outdoor activities to avoid the hottest parts of the day, and use a buddy system if necessary to keep watch on those at high risk.

Need to spend some time in a cool spot but can' afford to buy or run an air conditioner? Senay suggests finding a public place that's air conditioned, like a mall or a library. Even just a few hours of air conditioning a day can reduce the risk of heat-related illness, she says.
©MMII CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue