Fotolia_27936337_XSWith the temperatures in Texas rising above 100 for multiple days in a row, beating the heat has become serious business.  Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable and yet in 2014 more than 15 Texans died from heat related causes. 

Heat-related illness is the result of a person’s body’s inability to properly cool itself.  In high humidity areas the Gulf Coast, the body’s usual cooling method – sweating – sometimes isn’t enough causing the body temperature rise rapidly.  Very high body temperatures can damage the brain or other vital organs.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer some great tips for staying cool in our Texas heat.  We’ve listed some of the information from the CDC’s Extreme Heat Prevention Guide below. 

Tips for Staying Cool

Drink Plenty of Fluids

During hot weather you will need to increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink two to four glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.

Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

Don't drink liquids that contain alcohol, or large amounts of sugar—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Wear Sunscreen

Sunburn affects your body's ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids. It also causes pain and damages the skin. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) along with sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say "broad spectrum" or "UVA/UVB protection" on their labels) 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

Monitor High-Risk Individuals

Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others.

  • Infants and young children are sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and rely on others to regulate their environments and provide adequate liquids.
  • People 65 years of age or older may not compensate for heat stress efficiently and are less likely to sense and respond to change in temperature.
  • Overweight people may be prone to heat sickness because of their tendency to retain more body heat.
  • Those who overexert during work or exercise may become dehydrated and susceptible to heat sickness.
  • People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation, may be affected by extreme heat.

Do Not Leave Children or Pets in Cars

Even in cool temperatures, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. Even with the windows cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes. Anyone left inside is at risk for serious heat-related illnesses. Children who are left unattended in parked cars are at greatest risk for heat stroke, and possibly death. When traveling with children, remember to do the following:

  • Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
  • To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.
  • When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.

Next week: Recognizing the Signs and Treating Heat Related Illness

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