Gay Fresno - Life
Medical Matters - Summer Heat
First, did you know heat is THE most fatal of all weather phenomena? According to the National Weather Service, "Heat is the number one weather related killer in the United States. In fact, on average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined. In the disastrous heat wave of 1980, more titan 1,230 people died. In the heat wave of 1995 more than 700 deaths in the Chicago area alone were attributed to heat. In August 2003, a record heat wave in Europe claimed an estimated 50,000 lives..."
So we know heat can be more than just plain uncomfortable — it can be danger¬ous and even fatal. But we still all want to get outside — whether for our workout or just to go for a stroll or bike ride to relax at the end of a workday. But what can we do to prevent that ride along the canal or in the park or evening stroll end up with us being hauled away in all ambulance? Common sense is the first, foremost and leading answer.
Every year people die of dehydration because they "forgot" to drink before they became thirsty or they "forgot" to bring along that water bottle or they "forgot" their sunscreen or their hat or even to reschedule their walk or run or ride to a cooler part of the day. The cooler part is generally before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. However; this year even the lows, have been setting records so caution is needed at any time.
The best way to stay abreast of what's happening outside your air conditioned cocoon and know what's forecast is with a NOAA Weather Radio. You can get one of those at any hardware, supercenter or even the local drugstore for under $25. They not only come in handy when storms and blizzards strike, but hitting that "weather" on .switch first thing in the morning will give you a commercial-free outlook for the day and the coming week. There will also be present temperatures and, even more important, dew-points and heat index readings.
What's the dew point? Simply put the temperature at which dew will form on grass, cars and things outside. Under 60 degrees and most folks are comfy. Between 60 and 70 and it starts to get "sticky". Over 70 and it becomes downright uncomfortable. And anything close to or over 80 is dangerous and rare but feels like a sauna.
The dew point and humidity are also related to the temperature and that's our lead-in to the Heat Index. Years ago it was called the TI-II for Temperature Humidity Index, but whatever name you prefer; think of it as Summer's equal to the Wind Chill — in other words how hot you feel and your body perceives things to be out there. If the index is too high sweat doesn't evaporate to cool our bodies and we quickly overheat.
So what does the Weather Service do to warn us? Here's what their special office of climate has to say: "Each National Weather Service Forecast Office issues the following heat-related products as conditions warrant:
Excessive Heat Outlooks are issued when the potential exists for an excessive heat event in the next 3-7 days. An Outlook provides information to those who need con¬siderable lead time to prepare for the event, such as public utility staff, emergency managers and public health officials. Excessive Heat Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event in the next 24 to 72 hour, A Watch is used when the risk of a heat wave has increased but its occurrence and timing is still uncertain.
Excessive Heat Warnings/Advisories are issued when an excessive heat event is expected in the next 36 hours. These products are issued when an excessive heat event is occurring, is imminent or has a very high probability of occurring. The warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property An advisory is for less serious conditions that cause significant discomfort or inconvenience and, if caution is not taken, could lead to a threat to life and/or property."
And failure to heed that advice could end your and your friends' lives if you don't take the rest of the weather bureau's advice and slow down, drink plenty of water and wear light colored clothing if you need to be out. Believe it or not the difference your body feels between a white t-shirt and a blue, red or black one can be 20 or more degrees on a hot, humid day. Whew!
Finally, be aware of the signs of heat illness and act quickly. Remember that statistic: more fatalities than all of the other major weather events combined. Here are the things to look for, again from the National Weather Service:
- SUNBURN: We've all had the redness and pain. In severe cases swelling of skin, blisters, fever; headaches can also occur: First Aid: Ointments or sprays for mild cases. Serious, extensive cases should be seen by a doctor:
- HEAT CRAMPS: These are painful spasms usually in the muscles of legs and abdomen with heavy sweating. First Aid: Firm pressure on cramping muscles or gentle mas¬sage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water:
- HEAT EXHAUSTION: Heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale, clammy skin; thready pulse; fainting and vomiting but you may have normal temperature. First Aid: Get out of sun. Once inside lay down and loosen your clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths. Sit in front of a fan or in an air conditioned room. Friends should offer sips of water; though if nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.
- HEAT STROKE (or sunstroke): High body temperature (106' For higher), hot dry skin, rapid and strong pulse, possible unconsciousness. First Aid: Heat Stoke is a se¬vere medical emergency. Call 911 or take the victim to an ER. Delay can be fatal! While waiting for emergency assistance, move the victim to a cooler environment and reduce body temperature with a cold bath or sponging. Use extreme caution. Remove clothing, use fans and air conditioners. If temperatures rises again, repeat process. Do NOT give fluids.