July 16, 2013
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.
The Oswego County Health Department recommends that everyone understand the warning signs of heat-related illness and take special care of those at risk.
“The elderly and young children are at particular risk for heat illness. 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,” said Jiancheng Huang, Public Health Director of the Oswego County Health Department.
“Other conditions lending themselves to increased risk are obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, prescription drug use, and alcohol use,” he said.
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. This places people who may be already at risk for heat illness at increased risk.
Many people think electric fans are sufficient during extreme heat. Fans may provide comfort, but they will not prevent heat-related illness when the temperature is in the high 90s.
Heat-stroke is a severe illness that occurs when the body is unable to regulate its 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:
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 more serious 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,” said Huang. The warning signs of heat exhaustion include: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, moist or cool skin, and fainting.
“It’s important to learn how to manage during hot weather,” Huang said. The Oswego County Health Department recommends the following:
If you must be out in the heat:
To learn more about heat-related illness, call the visit the New York State Department of Health web site at health.ny.gov/publications/1243/
Questions about the Oswego County Public Information Office?