By NEMS Daily Journal
During these sweltering days of summer, Mississippians have been hit with some high temperatures and high humidity, making working and playing outdoors a precarious undertaking. And the heat indices make it downright dangerous. Daily Journal Features and Special Sections Editor Leslie Criss asked Jeffrey Dews, certified athletic trainer in the North Mississippi Medical Center Sports Medicine Program, what people can expect from the extreme heat and how to prevent illnesses.
Q. WHAT CAN HAPPEN to someone as a result of exposure to extreme heat and what are warning signs?
A. WHEN A PERSON IS EXPOSED to heat, their body temperature increases, which makes them susceptible to a heat illness. Most of the time these illnesses include cramps, exhaustion and strokes. Early warning signs of the illness include a sudden headache and thirst.
Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. Sweating decreases the salt levels in the muscles, making the muscles cramp. Heat cramps are normally located in the legs, arms or abdomen, and can also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate replacement of fluids. Signs of heat exhaustion include sweating, paleness, fatigue, dizziness, headache, fainting, nausea or vomiting.
Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. Signs of heat stroke include red, hot dry skin; rapid, strong pulse; headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion and unconsciousness.
Q. WHO IS AT GREATEST RISK for heatrelated illnesses?
A. INFANTS, CHILDREN, PEOPLE with chronic medical conditions, and elderly people 65 or older are more prone to heat-related illnesses. However, even young and healthy individuals can experience a heat illness if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot and humid conditions.
Q. HOW CAN PEOPLE PROTECT their health when temperatures are extremely high?
A. TO PROTECT YOUR HEALTH when temperatures are extremely high, remember to drink plenty of fluids, wear appropriate clothing and take frequent breaks. During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake regardless of the level of activity.
In order to stay hydrated, you’ll need to drink between 16 and 32 fluid ounces every hour. Also, it is very important to stay away from alcoholic beverages and carbonated drinks while in this environment because it will decrease your body fluids. I recommend wearing lightweight, light-colored and loosefitting clothing because tight, darker-colored clothing absorbs and retains more heat. While working in extremely hot environments it is best to take frequent breaks in the shade or preferably in an air-conditioned place.