Extreme heat! Health department wants you to stay cool

Each year more people in the United States die from extreme heat exposure than from hurricanes, lightening, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.

On average, about 300 people die each year from exposure to heat.

The Oswego County Health Department recommends that everyone understand the warning signs of heat-related illness and take special care of those at risk.

“The elderly and young children are at a higher risk for heat illness,” said Inga Back, acting public health director. “People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies cannot properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating.

“When humidity levels are high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly,” Back added.

Heat-stroke is a serious illness that occurs when the body cannot regulate 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 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. This type of heat-related illness can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

Warning signs of heat illness could include extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit); red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating); throbbing headache; dizziness, nausea and confusion; and unconsciousness.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after many days of exposure to high temperatures without proper fluid intake. If left untreated, it can progress to more serious heat stroke.

Warning signs of heat exhaustion could include heavy sweating; paleness; muscle cramps; tiredness, weakness or dizziness; headache, nausea or vomiting; and fainting.

“It’s important to take precautions during hot weather,” Back added.

The Oswego County Health Department recommends the following:

• Take a cool shower or bath.

• Drink plenty of water.

• Try to avoid liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar – these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks because they can cause stomach cramps.

• Stay indoors and, if possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to a shopping mall, senior center, or public library — even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.

If you must be out in the heat:

• Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.

• Cut down on physical activity.

• Drink plenty of water.

• Try to rest often in shady areas.

• Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a ventilated hat and sunglasses, and put on sun screen.

• Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

• Never leave anyone alone in a parked vehicle.

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