Safety Tips for the Year’s Hottest Months

By Barbara Pronin

When temperatures are at their highest, there is a wide range of health and safety we need to be aware of, says The National Safety Council (NSC), which provides

comprehensive tips on how to stay safe in the summertime at nsc.org. In general, it’s wise to stay hydrated and limit outdoor activity on very hot days. Apply sunscreen and wear loose, light clothing and a hat.

But heat accidents can happen, and it is important to understand how heat affects our bodies and how to handle the most common heat emergencies:

Heatstroke – Heatstroke occurs when the ability to sweat fails, causing body temperature to rise rapidly. The brain and vital organs may begin to be ‘cooked’ as body heat rises, and the damage may be permanent, even fatal. People experiencing heatstroke will have extremely hot skin and may appear to be confused.  If you suspect heatstroke:

– Move the person to a half-sitting position in the shade

– Call 911 for emergency medical help

– Spray the victim with water and/or fan them vigorously

– If humidity is high, apply an ice pack in the armpits

– Do not give the victim anything to drink

Heat exhaustion – Athletes and people who work outdoors are susceptible to heat exhaustion, which occurs when the body loses an excessive amount of salt and water. While less serious than heatstroke, the most common symptoms are fatigue, headache, nausea or vomiting along with profuse sweating, clammy skin or rapid pulse. If you suspect heat exhaustion:

– Move the victim to a cooler or air-conditioned space

– Give water or another cool, non-alcoholic drink

– Apply wet towels and, when possible, have the victim take a cool shower

Heat cramps – Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms, usually in the legs or abdominal muscle, that occur after vigorous physical activity when sweating causes decreased salt levels. In the case of heat cramps, have the victim:

– Sit or lie down in the shade

– Drink cool water or a sports drink

– Stretch the affected muscles

– Seek medical attention if the cramping lasts more than an hour

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