Summer heat: Too hot for your health
Envision spending summer days at the lake, the ball field or on the golf course. Without the sun and warm temperatures, it wouldn't be a Minnesota summer. Nonetheless, too much of anything isn't good.
Too much heat is not safe for anyone. It is even riskier for the very young, the elderly, those with health conditions, and individuals that exercise or work outdoors. Now that summer is here, recognize how to stay safe during the hottest days of the year.
Almost every summer there is a deadly heat wave somewhere in the country. Excessive heat exposure causes more deaths in the U.S. than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined.
For Minnesota, deaths from heat and humidity are the second-deadliest weather events. An unforgettable casualty in August 2001 was when Korey Stringer, a Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman, died from heat stroke while practicing with the Vikings.
As the heat index rises over the summer months, so does health risks for Minnesotans. The heat index is how hot the heat-humidity combination makes it feel. As relative humidity increases, the air seems warmer than it actually is because the body is less able to cool itself via perspiration.
For example, if the air temperature is 95°F and the relative humidity is 55 percent. the heat index (or how hot it really feels) is 110°F. When the heat index reaches 90° to 105°F, heat exhaustion is possible. With a heat index above 105°F, heat stroke is likely.
People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are dehydrated and unable to properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under extremely hot weather and high humidity, sweating isn't enough. A person's body temperature can rise rapidly and cause damage to vital organs.
Be alert of heat-related symptoms. They include headache, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps and fatigue.
Heat exhaustion, a milder condition, is when the body becomes dehydrated. It can develop slowly after exposure to heat for several days. If heat exhaustion goes untreated, the body doesn't sweat fast enough, overheats and heat stroke can develop within minutes.
How can you decipher symptoms of heat exhaustion versus heat stroke? Heat exhaustion consists of profuse sweating, paleness, cool and clammy skin. Heat stroke symptoms are the extreme opposite. No sweating, high body temperature (above 103°F, orally), hot and dry skin, confusion and unconsciousness.
If heat-related symptoms arise, first and foremost, cool the person. Get the person to shade or indoors and replenish fluids. If heat stroke is suspected, cool the person rapidly by placing in a cool shower, tub or spraying with water from a garden hose.
Fan the person to promote sweating and evaporation and place ice packs under armpits and groin. Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts. Always call 911 immediately, as heat stroke is a medical emergency.
Whether on the lake or the playing field, keep your body cool and hydrated. Recognize warning signs to stay safe and healthy during hot weather.