Tripp Fletcher springs into the Russell Pool Friday. | Austin Nelson photo

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Beating the heat

Published 3:33pm Monday, July 2, 2012

Temperatures to top out in mid-100s

With highs this weekend reaching in the hundreds, Deborah Birrer, certified athletic trainer and sports medicine coordinator at Russell Medical Center, said it’s important to take precautions when dealing with scorching hot temperatures.

Birrer said the best way to avoid the heat is by staying inside whenever possible.

“If you’re going to exercise, exercise in the morning and evening when it’s cooler,” Birrer said. “If you do have to be outside, or if you’re working in the heat of the day, hydration is the most important thing.”

Birrer said it’s important to stay hydrated because dehydration leads to heat cramps, heat illness or heat exhaustion, “which can ultimately be life threatening.”

“If you are out in the heat, drink not just when you’re thirsty. Drink all the time, replacing fluids every half hour,” Birrer said. “If you’re sweating a lot, drink fluids like Gatorade to replace electrolytes and salt that you are also losing with sweat.”

Birrer said it’s also good to know that caffeinated beverages and alcohol are not a good substitute for water because they can cause further dehydration.

Keeping a bucket of ice water and some towels handy when working outside in order to cool down quickly if needed is also a good idea, Birrer said.

 

She said it is also important to know where the shade is if dizziness or nausea occurs or if sweating stops.

 

In a press release The American Red Cross also gave some helpful tips on staying safe in the heat.

Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun’s energy. It is also a good idea to wear hats or to use an umbrella.

Eat small meals, and eat more often. Avoid high-protein foods, which increase metabolic heat.

Be a good neighbor. During heat waves, check in on elderly residents in your neighborhood and those who do not have air conditioning.

Learn Red Cross first aid and CPR. While the above tips can help prevent emergencies, it is crucial to know what to do if an emergency situation arises.

Birrer said people can be proactive about beating the heat by recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses as well as how to treat them.

 

Below is a list of signs, symptoms and treatments from The American Red Cross:

Signs and symptoms of:

Heat cramps: Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe, they are an early signal that the body is having trouble with the heat.

Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. If not treated, the victim may suffer heat stroke. Signals of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale flushed or red skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal.

Heat stroke: Also known as sunstroke, heat stroke is life threatening. The victim’s temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Signals include hot, red and dry skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be very high – sometimes as high as 1050 F.

Treatment for:

Heat cramps or heat exhaustion: Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. If the person is fully awake and alert, give half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not let him or her drink too quickly. Do not give liquids that contain alcohol or caffeine. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths, such as towels or sheets. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number if the person refuses water, vomits or loses consciousness.

Heat stroke: Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation! Help is needed fast. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body. Immerse victim in a cool bath, or wrap wet sheets around the body and fan it. Watch for signals of breathing problems. Keep the person lying down and continue to cool the body any way you can. If the victim refuses water or is vomiting or there are changes in the level of consciousness, do not give anything to eat or drink.

For more information on heat safety, visit www.redcross.org.

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