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As temperatures rise, beware of heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Graphic by Onsitesafety.com 

With temperatures rising and Pawhuska Inlonshka fast approaching, attendees are encouraged to be aware of the risks and signs of heat illness.

According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 658 people die nationwide each year due to heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion is when the body is unable to properly cool down after strenuous outdoor activity in hot, humid weather. If left untreated, it can lead to heat stroke.

Common heat exhaustion signs include fainting, excessive thirst, muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, excessive sweating, clammy skin, headache, low blood pressure upon standing, weak pulse and agitation. Symptoms can develop suddenly or over time, particularly when exercising outside for an extended period of time.

Additionally, elders and children younger than 4 are at higher risk for heat exhaustion. Young children and babies are still developing the ability to properly regulate their internal temperature, while elders may have reduced ability to do so thanks to age, illness or medication. Diabetics, individuals with heart conditions and the obese are also considered to be at higher risk.

If presenting symptoms of heat exhaustion, get inside or in the shade as soon as possible, loosen any tight or restrictive clothing, rest and drink water. Avoid alcohol or soda, which can exacerbate the problem by dehydrating the body. If the symptoms persist for more than an hour, seek medical attention.

Caused by extended exposure to high temperatures and often exacerbated by dehydration, heat stroke is when the body’s internal temperature control system fails. This in turn leads to a spike in core body temperature to 104 degrees or higher and can be fatal. It can also lead to long-term damage to the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles.

Also known as sunstroke, common heat stroke signs include convulsions, confusion, anxiety, vertigo, nausea, dehydration, decreased urination, loss of consciousness and red, dry skin. Although heat exhaustion is a risk factor, heat stroke can come on suddenly with no previous signs of heat-related illness.

If dealing with a suspected case of heat stroke, call for paramedics, then get the person inside or in the shade and remove any unnecessary clothing. Cool them down with ice packs, cool water or whatever else is available to help lower the body temperature.