Summer Heat and Humidity Claims Lives of Hundreds Every Year
With temperatures hitting the high 80s this week, Whatcom County is experiencing its annual summer heat wave. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of people lose their lives every year during extended periods of stale heat and humidity; an average of more than 600 per year. Humid conditions are especially dangerous because they prevent the body from cooling naturally through sweat. Older people living in hot apartments without air-conditioning, young children and people with chronic medical conditions are at the highest risk for heat stroke.
Summer heat and humidity causes heat stroke
A person may experience heat stroke when their body’s temperature rises to 105 F. Symptoms include headache, rapid heart rate, muscle cramps, fever, nausea, confusion, dizziness, inability to sweat and loss of consciousness/fainting. Other conditions related to overheating include heat cramps and fatigue.
How to reduce the risk of heat stroke
It takes about two weeks with exposure two hours per day for people to acclimate to hot, humid weather. To build a tolerance, people should incrementally increase their time outside while staying hydrated with an electrolyte rich drink every 15 minutes and eat small meals. In the meantime, people should limit hours outside during peak heat, stay well-hydrated and wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing with sunscreen on exposed areas and a wide-brimmed sunhat.
Other ways to stay safe in the heat:
- Since the sun is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., limit the amount of time you spend outside during these hours.
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 on yourself and 30 on your children about 30 minutes before heading outside. Be sure to reapply the sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Remember that even if it’s cloudy, you should use sunscreen.
- Limit intense physical activity outside.
- Be aware that cars can reach very high temperatures in the sun even if it’s only 65 degrees outside. NEVER leave your child or pet alone in the car, even for a minute.
- Always lock your car doors and keep keys away from children who could climb in the car unbeknownst to you, become trapped and overheat.
What should I do if I am experiencing heat stroke?
If you or someone you are with is experiencing any of the symptoms of heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately. While waiting for medical help, the person should be moved to a cool room or shady area, be given ice or cold water and remove unnecessary clothing. Place a cool wet washcloth on the patient’s forehead and then fan the face. If ice packs are available, place them in blood vessel rich areas such as neck, armpits, back and groin. Alternatively, an ice bath can quickly cool someone down.
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