For more than a year, we were stuck inside, away from our friends and families. There was the pandemic to deal with, to protect ourselves from. Then along came winter, and we were further isolated …
For more than a year, we were stuck inside, away from our friends and families. There was the pandemic to deal with, to protect ourselves from. Then along came winter, and we were further isolated and kept indoors.
Spring crept in at its own pace, then suddenly in the last week, summer opened the door on its blast furnace. We love it, missed it and couldn’t wait to get out in it.
But the combination of a long layoff without being active outside and the sudden spike in temperatures can create its own problems.
Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows excessive heat is responsible for the most weather-related fatalities in the U.S. during an average year.
According to the agency, extreme heat killed an average of 138 Americans per year from 1990 to 2019, the last year for which complete numbers are available.
Although heat illnesses usually occur in mid-summer, they can strike anyone who overexerts out in the blazing sun. And higher altitudes may increase the risk of dehydration. There are some more likely than others to fall ill with these entirely preventable maladies: those who are overweight, elderly, children and those unused to high heat. This year, suddenly summer may be a bigger jolt to the system than previously.
The three major illnesses are heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat cramp symptoms include involuntary muscle movement, heavy sweating and possibly dizziness, while pulse and respiration usually remain in the normal range.
To overcome the situation, sufferers should get somewhere cool, sit down and massage cramps with ice. Stretching, consumption of water and diluted electrolyte solutions are also recommended.
The next, more serious illness is heat exhaustion. It is characterized by cool, clammy skin, very heavy sweating, dizziness or disorientation, rapid breathing and weak pulse.
To alleviate the symptoms, remove or loosen wet clothing, quickly cool with ice water on the skin or sit in cool or ice water, sit near a fan. It is possible the patient may need IV fluids.
Heat stroke is the most serious and requires medical response right away. The symptoms may include irritability followed by apathy, disoriented and woozy, strong fast pulse, hot dry skin and low blood pressure. There may be convulsions and coma.
This medical emergency can lead to death. Cool the patient as quickly as possible and seek medical care immediately.
All three illnesses are failure of the body to cool itself properly and most often occur with strenuous exercise, high heat and humidity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
ACTIVE.com suggests staying hydrated with water and electrolyte drinks, because dehydration causes the body to lose its ability to cool itself. Get used to being outdoors before undertaking an elevated level of activity. Wear loose, comfortable clothing that will wick perspiration from the skin. And anyone with other health issues should talk to their care provider before adding an exercise regime.
So the weather is great, being back with friends and families is even better. Just remember when everyone is out and about, be sure to take care, take water and take it easy. We’ve seen enough tragedies for a lifetime. Don’t become a victim of a preventable illness.