June 11, 2008
Reminder to Residents: Take Care in the Summer Heat
The Oswego County Health Department is reminding residents to take care during the warm weather. They recommend that everyone understand the warning signs of heat-related illnesses and individuals at risk.
"The elderly and young children are at particular risk for heat illness,” said Dr. Dennis Norfleet, MD, Interim Public Health Director for Oswego County. “People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. When humidity levels are high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly,”
“Other conditions lending themselves to increased risk are obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use,” he added.
Each year more people in the United States die from extreme heat exposure than from hurricanes, lightening, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. On average, about 300 people die each year from exposure to heat.
Heat stroke is a severe illness that occurs when the body is unable to regulate its own temperature. The body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. This type of heat-related illness can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
Warning signs of heat illness vary, but may include extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit); red, hot or dry skin (no sweating); throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion or unconsciousness.
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. If left untreated, it can progress to heat stroke.
“Those most prone to heat exhaustion are the elderly, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment,” Dr. Norfleet said. The warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, fainting, paleness, tiredness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and cool or moist skin.
Air conditioning provides the best protection from heat exposure and heat-related deaths. However, some people may be fearful of high utility bills and limit their use of air conditioning. Electric fans may provide some comfort, but they will not prevent heat-related illness when the temperature is in the high 90s. These circumstances may increase the danger for those individuals who are already at risk for heat illness.
“It's important to learn how to manage during hot weather,” Dr. Norfleet added. The Oswego County Health Department recommends the following:
However, if you must be out in the heat, try to:
To learn more about heat-related illness, call the County Health Department at 349-3547 or visit the New York State Department of Health Web site at www.nyhealth.gov.
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