Keeping cool, spotting heat trouble

PHILADELPHIA - July 16, 2013

The effects of heat accumulate, and the longer a heat wave goes on, the greater the risk of sickness or worse.

We might think the biggest impact is on outdoor workers or athletes. But two-thirds of heat-related deaths are at home, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 91 per cent of those homes lacked air conditioning, most of those who died were living alone. And 72 per cent of them were male.

Extreme heat affects everyone, but the elderly, children under 4, the poor or homeless, and anyone with a chronic medical condition are the most vulnerable.

The first step is to drink plenty of fluids. You've heard it again and again, but it's necessary - because it works.

Some other tips to prevent dehydration and other heat-related illnesses include:

** Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol – these fluids dehydrate the body rather than hydrate like water and sports drinks.

** Avoid carbonated beverages, which can cause bloating and keep people from drinking enough fluid to rehydrate.

** Wear light colored, absorbent, loose fitting clothing. Fibers like cotton, and those found in athletic wear aid the evaporation of perspiration, which

** Stay in cool, shady areas when possible, protect your skin with sun block. Sunburn decreases your body's ability to regulate your body temperature.

** Limit your exercise, especially outdoors. If you must exercise drink 2 to 4 glasses of nonalcoholic fluids each hour.

Afternoons and early evenings are normally the hottest part of the day. Staying inside cool places during those hours can decrease your chance of heat sicknesses.

Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

Learn to recognize trouble early:

Signs of Heat Exhaustion - a milder form of illness that can occur after several days of exposure to high temperatutres, plus too little fluids.

*Heavy sweating
*Muscle Cramps
*Nausea or vomiting
*Skin: may be cool and moist
*Pulse rate: fast and weak
*Breathing: fast and shallow

Signs of Heat Stroke - a life-threatening condition that requires emergency treatment

*An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
*Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
*Rapid, strong pulse
*Throbbing headache
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