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Prevention key to avoiding heat-related health issues
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During the first week of July we endured triple digit temperatures, and with the exception of a few days since, we have had extremely hot weather. The highest temperatures recorded by Weather Underground were around 108°F. These measurements were taken in the shade, so in areas where there was no shade or around asphalt parking lots, the temperatures could well have been in the 120°F range. Interestingly, the highest official temperature recorded in this area was 113°F on July 23, 2006.

It is reasonable to expect more extreme hot weather this summer, and while a day or two of it may not cause too many problems, a "heat wave" can harm people, livestock and crops. As a result of the high temperatures, the Ceres Fire Department has seen an increase in heat-related emergency medical calls. It is wise to know how to take precautions and prepare for the heat.

A "heat wave" is a long period of excessive heat, typically several days or more. One of these can lead to medical emergencies brought about by dehydration, heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Heat injuries can affect anyone, at any age. Persons who have health problems: young children, seniors and those who labor outdoors are at higher risk. The mildest form of a heat-related injury is called "heat cramps," which shows up in the form of muscular cramps in the legs or abdomen. This affliction can usually be treated by giving the victims fluid (no caffeine or alcohol), and getting them into a cooler environment. When in doubt, consult a physician. Caffeine or alcohol will worsen the situation, given their dehydrating effects on the body.

Heat exhaustion develops as a person exercises, plays or works in an excessively hot and humid climate, causing an increasing amount of body fluids to be lost. The blood flow to the skin will increase, decreasing blood flow to body organs. Mild shock can set in. The skin can become cool and moist, and appear pale or flushed. Headache, dizziness and nausea can be present. You must work fast to prevent the person from progressing to "heat stroke." First aid treatment for this problem involves moving the person to a cool place, and applying cool, wet clothes to the victim - anything can be used: towels, sheets, or whatever is available. Replace fluids by having the person drink a half a glass of water every fifteen minutes. Again, no alcohol and caffeine should be given to the victim. Consultation with a physician is advisable.

Heat stroke, which is sometimes called "sunstroke," is life-threatening. If not caught in time and without measures taken to reverse the condition, brain damage can result. The system that controls the victim's body temperature stops working. The cooling process ceases and the person continues to become hotter. You should look for red, hot skin, a rapid and weak pulse, rapid and shallow breathing, body temperature can run as high as 105°F, and usually the skin is dry because the person has lost their body fluids. First aid treatment involves immersing the person in water (cold tap water is advisable - consult medical experts as necessary) soaking sheets, towels or other absorbent material in water and wrapping them around the victim if there is not sufficient water to immerse the person. Continuously give the victim water, unless they are vomiting or unconscious. Heat stroke victims require emergency medical treatment, so it is wise to call 9-1-1.

Prevention is the key. Protect yourself by slowing down activity in extreme weather. Do the most outdoor work during the coolest part of the day and avoid unnecessary strenuous activity. Stay indoors or at least in the shade as much as possible and wear light-weight, light-colored clothing. Drink plenty of water regularly and eat small meals throughout the day. Avoid meals that contain a lot of protein (protein causes metabolic heat), along with salt, alcohol and caffeine.

There are many predictions for increasingly hotter summers in the coming years. Protecting yourselves and loved ones (especially children and the elderly) from the dangers of extreme high temperatures is crucial this summer.