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     Volume 4 Issue 51 | June 17, 2005 |

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When it's Boiling Hot...

What are heat-related health problems?
Heat-related health problems happen when your body temperature gets too high. People suffer heat-related illness when the body's temperature control system is overloaded. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just is not enough. In such cases, a person's body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

The elderly, the very young and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

Several factors affect the body's ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions that can limit the ability to regulate temperature include old age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, poor circulation, sunburn, and drug and alcohol use.

Air conditioning is the strongest protective factor against heat-related illness. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s (Fahrenheit), fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Exposure to air conditioning for even a few hours a day will reduce the risk for heat-related illness.

Summertime activity, whether on the playing field or the construction site, must be balanced with measures that aid the body's cooling mechanisms and prevent heat-related illness.

There are five types of heat-related problems:
*Heat rash
*Heat cramps
*Heat exhaustion
*Heat stroke

What causes them?
When you are in the sun for too long, your skin can burn. This is called a sunburn.

Heat Rash
Too much sweating causes a heat rash. The sweat irritates your skin and causes small, red bumps to form. It usually happens on the neck and chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and at the elbow joint.

Heat Cramps
People who sweat a lot during exercise can get heat cramps. Sweat is made of your body's salt and water. When you sweat a lot, your body loses too much salt. The low salt level causes muscles to tighten and cramp, which can be painful. They usually happen in your arm and leg muscles. Heat cramps can be a sign of heat exhaustion.

Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion happens when your body sweats too much. Your body loses too much salt and water. If not treated, heat exhaustion can lead to a heat stroke.

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke occurs when your body cannot cool itself. Your body temperature can get to 103 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit within 10 to 15 minutes. This is very dangerous. It can cause permanent injury or death.

Who can get them?
Anyone can get a heat-related health problem or heat illness. Those most at risk are:
*infants and young children
*the elderly
*overweight people
*those who work or exercise outdoors in the heat
*people who are ill or taking medicines

What are the signs and symptoms?
*Red and painful skin
*Blisters (if the sunburn is severe)

Heat Rash
*Red, small bumps on your skin

Heat Cramps
*Muscles tighten, cramp or spasm

Heat Exhaustion
*High body temperature
*Heavy sweating
*Nausea and vomiting
*Cool, clammy skin

Heat Stroke
*Body temperature over 103 degrees Fahrenheit
*No sweating
*Red, hot and dry skin
*Disorientation -- not knowing what is happening

How are they treated?
*Stay out of the sun.
*Put the sunburned skin under cool water.
*Put lotion over it to keep the skin moist.
*Do not pop the blisters. Cover them with clean gauze or cloth.
*Acetaminophen (such as Panedol) or ibuprofen can help with pain.

Heat Rash
*Get out of the heat.
*Keep the heat rash dry. Do not put lotions or creams on it.
* will go away with time.

Heat Cramps
*Sit in a cool place.
*Drink fluids.
*Eat salted foods. DO NOT take salt tablets.
*Massage the muscle.
*Stretch the muscle.

Heat Exhaustion
*Get out of the heat and sun.
*Drink plenty of fluids.
*Get a sponge bath or place wet towels over body.
*Call your doctor if you think someone has heat exhaustion.

Heat Stroke
*Get the person out of the heat and sun.
*Call a doctor.
*Cool the person however you can. Examples: Get them in a cool bath or shower; spray them with cool water from a garden hose.
*Give him a cool sponge bath.
*Continue cooling them until their body temperature drops to 101 or 102 degrees Fahrenheit, or until medical personnel arrive.

How long do they last?
*Sunburn usually heals in about 1 week.
*Heat Rashes usually clear up in about 1 week.
*Heat Cramps usually go away within 1 hour.
*Heat Exhaustion lasts until the body temperature and body fluids are normal.
*Heat Stroke lasts until the body temperature and body fluids are normal. Damage from heat stroke can be permanent.

Can they be prevented?
Yes, all heat-related health problems and heat illnesses can be prevented.
*Wear sunscreen. Put it on before going into the sun. Put more on often, especially if sweating or swimming.
*Drink plenty of fluids.
*Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
*Exercise early in the morning or later in the day.
*Take time to rest during your activity.
*Wear lightweight clothing.
*If you feel sick, stop exercising or working. Sit down in a cool place.
*Stay cool indoors.
*Always exercise with a friend.

Source: Virtual Children's Hospital and Minnesota Department of Health, Online

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