With temperatures rising to unbearable degrees throughout much of the nation, Americans need to take special precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses, reports CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.
During a heat wave, the best thing to do is to stay out of the sun's way. Here are other ways to keep cool:
- Try to avoid going out during the hottest hours - between noon and 4 p.m.
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that will give you as much ventilation as possible.
- Drink plenty of liquids to help your body sweat and cool off. Water and diluted juices are the best choices.
- Avoid hot, heavy meals. They tend to increase your metabolism, which increases your body temperature.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages because they slow down the body's ability to cool itself.
- Set your air conditioner to a cool and comfortable temperature.
- If you don't have an air conditioner, stay on the lowest floor of your home and close your window shades to reduce the amount of heat that comes in.
- Take a cool bath or shower to help make you feel more comfortable.
- If the heat is still too much, visit places like the local mall or movie theater where you can enjoy free air conditioning for hours.
However, if you must workout outdoors, you can help your body stay cool by:
- Exercising during the coolest parts of the day, early morning and in the evening.
- Drink a few glasses of water before you begin exercises, then continue to drink fluids at 15-minute intervals during the workout. When you're finished, drink a few more glasses as well.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing during exercise so that sweat can freely evaporate from your skin and cool your body off.
- Wear a good sunscreen to protect your skin.
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 and shallow breathing, and a rapid, weak pulse. Heat stroke victims are often elderly people who don't have air conditioning in their homes or older people suffering from heart disease or diabetes.
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 body has trouble compensating for the high temperatures. Someone with heat exhaustion can be treated in an emergency room wih fluids, administered both orally and intravenously.
The symptoms include thirst, nausea, headache, weakness, and confusion.
The mildest heat-related illness is heat cramps. It usually affects those people who exercise in hot, humid weather. They experience a mineral depletion that causes muscles to spasm.
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. You can use a fan, a wet sheet, and cold compress on the victim's neck, groin, and armpits. As with any serious illness, always consult a doctor.
Reported By Dr. Emily Senay