Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable

(Bill Dellinges)

There is nothing more beautiful than watching the sun peek up over the Superstition Mountains in the morning and nothing can rival the brilliant colors of an Arizona sunset.

From summer poppies to towering saguaros, there is so much beauty to be experienced in the desert. Unfortunately, as with most things in life, we have to take the bad with the good, according to a release.

As much as we love winters here, summers in the desert can be atrocious. Not only is the summer heat uncomfortable, for some it can be deadly. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious medical conditions that if not treated, can have grave consequences.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious medical conditions that if not treated, can have grave consequences. (Submitted photo)

Heat exhaustion is one type of heat-related illness that is accompanied by headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and weakness. Heat exhaustion, left untreated, can lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s core temperature reaches 105 degrees or higher. The extreme temperature can lead to complications in the central nervous system. Heat stroke occurs because the body is no longer able to regulate temperature, the release states. 

Symptoms of heat stroke include fainting, headache (throbbing felt in the temples), nausea, vomiting, cessation of sweating, dizziness, redness of skin around the face and neck (may appear as a rash). Often heatstroke patients will experience increased or rapid heartbeat, respiratory complications, confusion, slurred speech, delirium and seizures.

If you or someone you know experiences a heat-related emergency, call 911 immediately. While waiting for medics to arrive you should try to get the patient out of the sun or remove them from the source of the heat (such as a hot car or house). You can gently spray the patient down with cool water or apply a wet cloth or ice pack to the patient’s armpits and/or groin area. If the patient is able to drink give them cool water. Obviously if the patient is unconscious or is vomiting hold off on trying to get them to drink, the release states. 

Heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable. Here are some tips to avoid a trip to the emergency room this summer:

  • Drink water. Your body needs to stay hydrated in order to produce sweat. Sweat helps regulate your temperature. Avoid alcohol.
  • Avoid sunburns. Sunburns make it more difficult for your body to expel heat. Wear sunscreen, carry an umbrella or wear a hat. Protect yourself from the sun. 
  • Spend the hot part of the day somewhere cool. If you don’t have an air-conditioning system, find someone who does. The library malls, or grocery stores are nice cool places hang out during the summer. 
  • Be careful with medications. The heat can create a complication with certain prescription drugs. Consult your physician or pharmacist if you’re unsure. 
  • Avoid hot cars. Temperatures can reach an excess of 145 degrees in a parked car here in the summer. Never leave a child in parked car. Not even for a minute.
  • If you have the option, avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day. Exercise in the morning or early evening. 
  • If you must work in hot weather take extra precautions. Take regular and frequent breaks from the heat and drink plenty of water. 
  • If you are new to the area, allow your body to acclimate to the heat before jumping into a regular exercise routine. Be aware of the temperature swings. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to go from 78 degrees at 7 a.m. to 105 degrees by noon. 

Finally, children and the elderly are the most susceptible to heat-related illness. As good citizens it’s up to us to watch out for the most vulnerable among us. Often time’s people don’t want to burden others with their problems so we may not know that our neighbors are without a functional air conditioner or cooler, according to the release. 

Even though your neighbor may not ask for help, he or she probably won’t turn it down if help is offered. If you have an elderly neighbor, check on them. Ask about their living situation. Find out if they have family in the area and try to get emergency contact information. If you have permission or you are invited, enter their residence so you can assess the living conditions inside. 

Watch for any changes in your neighbor’s routine. For example, if you notice that your neighbor usually open their blinds first thing in the morning and then suddenly does not, there may be a problem. If your neighbor normally takes a morning walk but skips a day check in on them. Be vigilant. Simply taking the time to look in on the people around us could save a life, the release states.

The Apache Junction Independent publishes a daily newsletter and website. A print edition is mailed each month to 35,000 homes.

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