Outdoor Safety & Ethics:
Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable yet annually many people succumb to extreme heat. Extreme heat kills more people than hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and lightning combined, according to the National Weather Service. 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 isn't enough. In such cases, a person's body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs. In general, there are three types of Heat-Related Illnesses:
When you're dehydrated, your body doesn't have enough fluid to work properly. An average person on an average day needs about 3 quarts of water. But if you're out in the hot sun, you'll need a lot more than that. Signs of dehydration in adults include:
- Being thirsty
- Urinating less often than usual
- Dark-colored urine
- Being thirsty
- Dry skin
- Feeling tired
- Dizziness and fainting
Signs of dehydration in babies and young children include a dry mouth and tongue, crying without tears, no wet diapers for 3 hours or more, a high fever and being unusually sleepy or drowsy.
Heat exhaustion typically occurs when excessive activity is done in a hot, humid place, causing the body to have excessive loss of fluid. Vital organs began to lose blood flow because blood flow is diverted to the skin.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion are prolonged sweating, paleness, clammy skin, nausea, muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, weakening of the body and extreme fatigue. The body will lose fluids, which can cause an electrolyte imbalance. This imbalance can cause the person to collapse or have a heat stroke.
With a heat stroke, the person sweats very little or not at all. There is a rapid pulse, flushed skin and a decrease in mental status. The temperature of the body increases to 104° F rapidly. Treatment involves seeking medical attention immediately, moving the person to a cool area, loosen clothing, application of wet cloths, and encouragement of intake of fluids if conscious. This should be done until the body temperature drops to 101° F.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be prevented. Care should be taken to plan activities in temperatures that are not extremely hot and taxing on the body. Wear clothing that allows the body to breath and intake air. Drink plenty of fluids while conducting any activity in heated conditions. It is recommended that a quart of fluid is consumed every hour. Schedule plenty of time for rest breaks within the planned activity period.
For more detailed information regarding Heat-Related Illnesses, please check out the websites below:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Extreme Heat Prevention Guide
- MedlinePlus.gov– Dehydration information
- MedlinePlus.gov – Heat Illness information