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Take precautions during extreme heat

July 24, 2012
The Daily News

When the weather is hot, it's time to protect yourself and your loved ones from heat illness.

Most heat disorders occur because the victim has been overexposed to heat or has over-exercised for his or her age and physical condition.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, the heat wave in early July led to many people being medically affected.

During the 10 hottest days of the heat wave, heat-related emergency department (ED) visits increased 89 percent from the previous 10-day period, with 734 ED visits versus 389.

Increases in emergency department visits for heat-related illnesses during the first week of July show how necessary it is to take precautions during extreme heat events. The hottest day, July 7, set record temperatures of more than 100 degrees in many parts of Michigan with more than 115 heat-related ED visits at 87 facilities.

Throughout the United States, heat was cited as a factor in at least 30 deaths during this heat wave, mostly among the elderly.

"Anyone can be overcome by extreme heat, but some people are at higher risk than others, especially the elderly, very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases," said Dr. Dean Sienko, interim chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Community Health. "Chronic illnesses like heart and lung disease, diabetes, and any illness that may cause dehydration, can exacerbate heat-related illnesses. This is why it's so important that we check on family and friends during a heat wave."

Signs of heat-related illnesses vary, but can include the following: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can cause death or permanent disability unless immediately treated. Symptoms of heat stroke include an extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees), red, hot, and dry skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate, headache, nausea, confusion, and unconsciousness. If heat stroke is suspected, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Quick tips to remember during extreme heat:

- Use air conditioning or spend time in air-conditioned locations, when possible.

- Take a cool bath, shower, or swim.

- Minimize direct exposure to the sun.

- Limit time outdoors as much as possible, but take frequent breaks if you must be outside.

- Stay hydrated - drink water or nonalcoholic fluids.

- Wear loose fitting, light-colored clothes.

- Check on your neighbors, friends and family members, especially those who are older or have health issues.

- Never leave children, the elderly, or pets unattended in a vehicle. Even with the windows rolled down, or just for a few minutes, it is never OK to leave anyone in a vehicle in extreme heat.



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