Summer Safety Primer
During heat illness, the body’s cooling system shuts down due to a
lack of water and electrolytes.
Mild symptoms of heat exhaustion include thirst, fatigue, and cramps
in the legs or abdomen. Left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress
to heat stroke. Serious heat-related symptoms include dizziness,
headaches, nausea, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, decreased alertness,
and a temperature as high as 105 F or more.
In severe cases, the liver, kidneys, and brain may be damaged due to
the lack of water and electrolytes. About 400 people die each year
from heat exposure, according to the CDC.
The risk of heat illness goes up during exertion and sports and with
certain health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart
disease. Alcohol use also increases the risk. So do medications that
slow sweat production such as antihistamines, tricyclic
antidepressants, and diuretics used to treat water retention, high
blood pressure, and some liver and kidney conditions.
People ages 65 and older and young children are especially vulnerable
to heat illness. During the summer of 2003, at least 42 children in
the United States died after being left in hot cars, according to Jan
Null, a meteorologist in San Francisco who tracks heat-related
deaths. What some people don’t realize is that the temperature inside
a car can climb much higher than temperatures outside during a sunny
day. Heat stroke in children can occur within minutes, even if a car
window is opened slightly. **The car becomes a `solar oven’ with
tempratures going over 200 degrees F.
What You Can Do
Adequate hydration is the #1 protective factor!
At #2 is proper clothing with headgear. Air conditioning is the No. 3
protective factor against heat illness. If you don’t have air
conditioning, spend time in public facilities, such as libraries and
malls that have air conditioning. Reduce strenuous activities or do
them during early mornings and evenings when it’s cooler. If you’re
outside for long stretches of time, carry a water bottle, drink
fluids regularly, and don’t push your limits. People who play sports
should wear light, loose-fitting clothes and drink WATER or sports
drinks before, during, and after activity. If you see someone
experiencing heat illness, have the person lie down in a cool place
and elevate the legs. Use water, wet towels, and fanning to help cool
the person down until emergency help comes.
The number one indicator of adequate hydration is URINATION. With
infants we are told that 10-12 wet diapers is a good thing. And
that “depends” on your age. If you are 40 years old, one would hope
that you do not need diapers [in older folks diapers are called
depends]. BUT you should be going every 2-3 hours and your urine
should be clear to straw colored and at least 90 MLs each time. If
your urine is dark, cloudy or scant you NEED to be drinking more
water. A good formula is one liter of water, ¼ teaspoon potassium
chloride [this is a salt substitute some trade names are NU-salt, NO-
salt ECT.. Available in the seasoning section with the regular table
salt –sodium chloride] a pinch of mag sulfate—Epson salt, 2
tablespoons of sugar and Kool aid to taste. Chile and serve. This
formula is rather similar to Pedialyte or Gatorade only better and
much cheaper. — Just like you learned in our first aid class.