Tips for preventing heat related illness With August typically one of the hottest months of the year, a state health official reminds South Dakotans to keep in mind some basic precautions for preventing heat-related illness.
Heat-related illness occurs when the body's temperature control system is overloaded, and the body can no longer cool itself, says Dr. Sarah Patrick, state epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health. Infants, young children and the elderly are at particular risk from heat-related illness. Each summer, heat-related illness results in hospitalization and even deaths.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting. The skin may be cool and moist. The pulse rate will be fast and weak and breathing will be fast and shallow. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke. If symptoms are severe or if the victim has heart problems or high blood pressure, seek medical attention immediately. Otherwise, help the victim to cool off, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour.
"During periods of very high heat, air conditioning is really the best protection," said Dr. Patrick. "It's important to know that fans may actually increase the risk of heat related illness when used in an enclosed space where they only re-circulate the heat and don't really cool the air."
Dr. Patrick offered the following tips to help people stay safe and healthy during hot weather:
* Increase your fluid intake-regardless of your activity level. Don't wait until you feel thirsty to drink fluids.
* Since children may dehydrate more quickly than adults, parents should make sure their children drink plenty of clear fluids even when they're not reporting thirst. A rule of thumb is to give your child 2-3 drinks for every one you take.
* Limit exercise in a hot environment, and drink 2-4 glasses of fruit juice or a sports beverage each hour.
* Avoid drinks containing caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar. Also avoid very cold beverages because they can cause stomach cramps.