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Thursday, 7 August 2014

Beating the Heat the Safe Way

Even though back to school sales are starting in the stores, we still have at least a month of hot weather ahead of us.  Exercising and playing sports outside is a right of passage for many of us during the summer.  However there are some key points everyone needs to know to help prevent heat related illness.  

When planning an activity outside, try to plan it before 11 am and after 4 pm as the suns UV rays are at the highest at this time.  Drink 2-4 glasses of water every hour that you are outside.  Hydrate prior to and after any activity outside.  Even the what may seem like a simple activity can cause heat illness.  Take frequent breaks, if unable to go inside, find a shady, cool area to do so.  The type of clothing is important as well.  Wearing a wide brimmed hat and light weight and light coloured clothing is recommended.  A minimum of SPF 15 sunscreen is recommended and needs to be reapplied regularly especially if you are sweating or in the water.  

Part of prevention is also knowing the signs and symptoms of heat illness, so that if your or someone around you starts to experience any, you can act swiftly and safely.  

The most mild form of heat illness are heat cramps, which are brought on by exertion in heat.  They are characterized by pain and muscle contraction that continues even after exercise.  Treatment consists of rehydration with a sodium based liquid and gentle stretching.  

Heat exhaustion is a moderate heat illness.  Signs and symptoms include loss of coordination, dizziness, possible fainting, profuse sweating and pale skin, headache, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps and persistent muscle cramping.  Removal from activity immediately and being taken to a shady place and rehydration with water.  

Heat stroke is a severe and serious medical situation,  Core body temperature of greater than 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  Altered conciousness including confusion, irritability, and decreased mental acuity.  Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness and weakness are also present.  Increased heart rate, dehydration, and decreased blood pressure are some of the more extreme symptoms.  It is imperative to deal with anyone exhibiting these symptoms quickly.  The whole body should be cooled immediately, transport to an emergency room should be done quickly and under the guidance of trained personnel such as EMS.

Heat illness needs to be taken very seriously as the consequences of miss handling can be tragic.  Heat acclimation is important, gradually build up your tolerance to heat and humidity.  Young children and seniors are more prone to suffer heat illness, these populations should be closely monitored for the signs of heat illness.  

Have fun and enjoy your summer safely.

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Sources used for this article. 

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