Jul 162003
 
Authors: Colleen Buhrer

As the sun blazes and temperatures rise, everyone becomes more at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

In intense heat, sometimes resulting from long heat waves that seem to last for days, it is important people find way to keep cool, according to Ann Watson, health education supervisor for the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment.

There are several ways to do this. Some things Watson suggests are drinking water, eating food high in water content and avoid exercising and working in the heat. If it is necessary to be outside “cover yourself in a light colored cotton garment,” she said.

If people do not stay out of the heat and keep cool they might end up with heat exhaustion or worse, heat stroke.

“Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. “It occurs when the body becomes unable to control 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/F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes.”

Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if not treated immediately. From 1979-1999, heat related illnesses killed 8, 015 people in the United States, more than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined.

“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,” according to the CDC Web site. “Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, those with high blood pressure, and those working or exercising in a hot environment.”

In big cities where it is humid and there is sometimes a higher concentration of people without air conditioning the amount of severe cases of heat related illness can increase, Watson said.

Infants and young children as well as people aged 65 and older are at a greater risk for heat related illness, Watson said. They should be checked on regularly and should not be left in a parked, closed vehicle.

It can be harder to stay cool in a house or building without air conditioning. Watson offers a few tips o keeping homes cool. Put a fan in a window and turn it on at night so it will suck the hot air out.

“To tell the truth, I’ve used that method for years,” she said.

She also suggests keeping the area closed up during the day. To get cooled off go to a movie, the mall or any place with air conditioning.

For more information about heat related illness visit www.cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/extremeheat.

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