Health officials: Prevent heat-related illnesses, know your symptoms

OKLAHOMA CITY – The summer heat is in full force, so health officials want to make sure you know what to do to avoid heat-related illnesses.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, more than 600 people die from heat-related illnesses in the United States each year.

From 2010-2017, there were 145 deaths in Oklahoma associated with exposure to excessive heat.

Heat-related illnesses can range from heat rash, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion to hyperthermia (overheating) and heat stroke.

Health officials say it’s important to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and act quickly.

Heat Exhaustion

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, pale, clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache
  • Feeling dizzy

Heat Stroke

  • Body temperature of 103 degrees or higher
  • Hot, red, dry or moist skin
  • Rapid and strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Feeling confused
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Unconsciousness

Here are some safety tips for preventing a heat-related illness:

Stay indoors

  • Stay in an air-conditioned place. If a home is not air-conditioned, visit a mall or public library, or contact a local health department for the location of a heat-relief shelter in the area.

Stay hydrated

  • Increase fluid intake to two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids every hour. Anyone taking water pills or is on restricted fluids should consult a physician first. Avoid liquids which contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar; they contribute to the loss of more body fluid. Very cold drinks can cause stomach cramps and should be avoided as well.

Dress appropriately

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing as well as sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and broad spectrum or UVA/UVB protection.

Schedule outdoor activities carefully

  • Try to limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours. When outside, rest often in shady areas to allow the body a chance to recover.

Pace yourself

  • Cut down on exercise during the heat. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, stop all activity. Get into a cool area or into the shade, and rest, especially when becoming lightheaded, confused, weak or faint.

Closely monitor those who are more vulnerable

  • Infants, children, people older than 65 years of age, those with mental illness, outdoor workers, athletes, and those with physical illnesses such as heart disease or high blood pressure should be closely observed.

Never leave pets or people in a vehicle

  • Never leave anyone, especially children, the elderly or pets in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are cracked.
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