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How Hot is Too Hot?

By Lafayette General Health
July 31, 2019

National Heat Stroke Day is July 31.

 

Heat related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Despite this, around 618 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year. 

 

What is Extreme Heat?

Extreme heat is defined as summertime temperatures that are much hotter and/or humid than average. Because some places are hotter than others, this depends on what’s considered average for a particular location at that time of year. Humid and muggy conditions can make it seem hotter than it really is.

 

What Causes Heat-Related Illness?

Heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body is not able to properly cool itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat, this might not be enough. In these cases, a person’s body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. This can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.

 

Some factors that might increase your risk of developing a heat-related illness include:

  • High levels of humidity
  • Obesity
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Prescription drug use
  • Heart disease
  • Mental illness
  • Poor circulation
  • Sunburn
  • Alcohol use

 

Who is Most at Risk?

Older adults, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy people can be affected if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather. Summertime activity, whether on the playing field or the construction site, must be balanced with actions that help the body cool itself to prevent heat-related illness. 

 

How to Prevent Heat Stroke:

Take lots of breaks. And if you exercise in the heat, try to do so early in the morning when humidity and heat from the direct sunlight is low. Everyone should drink plenty of cool fluids in the heat. Water is the best choice, but low-sugar sports drinks are recommended if you're working in the heat or exercising more than one hour. Remember, heat stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Call 911 in such cases.

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