As temperatures continue to climb, proper protection from the heat becomes even more vital. Unforeseen health dangers can crop up if a person fails to remain hydrated or wear light-colored clothing.
Ed Konick, Waxahachie firefighter and paramedic, stated hydration is the key to keep the body safe as the sun’s rays beat down. He noted the heat could pose a greater danger to younger and older people.
“With older people, it is because their body is not as efficient. Their body can’t react fast enough or recover enough as when they were younger,” Konick said. “Younger people they are going so fast they are not thinking about it. They are not worried about it when it should be at the front of their mind.”
Konick stated before heading out to work or have fun to take a few moments to plan ahead. For every 20-30 minutes of activity, there should be five to 10-minute break scheduled in for a person to cool down and hydrate.
“A good way to tell if someone is hydrated or not is to pinch their skin. If you pinch it and it stays up, that means you don’t have any fluid in there. It is not cooling down as it should,” Konick explained. “Another way is to look at your urine. If you have really dark urine, then you are not drinking enough fluids.”
Konick stated a sign that a person might be in trouble is if they have stopped sweating. If a person does not remain hydrated, it can lead to heat exhaustion and later to heat stroke, which is much more severe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat exhaustion is the body's response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. Symptoms include heavy sweating, extreme weakness or fatigue, dizziness, confusion, nausea, clammy moist skin, pale or flushed complexion, muscle cramps, slightly elevated body temperature and fast and shallow breathing.
To treat heat exhaustion, the CDC advises the person to get out of the heat, and drink water and a little bit of Gatorade to replace electrolytes and nutrients such as potassium and sodium.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down.
When a person is affected by heat stroke, they can exhibit symptoms such as dry skin, a reddish complexion, an altered mental state, muscle cramps, weakness, headaches, dizziness, disorientation and even vomiting.
The CDC recommends treating heat stroke by first moving the affected person into a cool shaded area. Then cool them off by soaking their clothes with water, fanning their body and spraying or sponging them with water.
Konick stated you want to be very careful in how you treat a person that has either of these conditions.
“Get them into a shaded environment. You don’t want to get them into cool air conditioning immediately. You want to slowly decrease the temperature because you don’t want to shock the body too much,” Konick said. “Get them into the shade and get some wind on them. Then get them to loosen up (clothing) and cool them down slowly.”
Konick stated either condition requires an immediate call to 9-1-1 for assistance to have the person checked out at the hospital. He added, “Take the first signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke seriously.”
Konick advises people to check on elderly family members to make sure their AC is working, and they are staying hydrated. Also before performing any outdoor work hydrate up a few days before the activity.