Heat can kill directly via heatstroke. It can also increase your chances of succumbing to a heart condition, stroke or other breathing problems. Hundreds in the US die each year during heat waves. It is estimated that number will only grow higher as temperatures continue, on average, to increase. Hot Weather Preparation
Your body wants to maintain a steady core temperature of 98.6 F. When you begin to heat up, your nervous system diverts blood away from your internal organs and to your skin to radiate heat away. Sweat glands release water, which has a cooling effect as it evaporates from your skin.
The best preparation to prevent heat injuries and death is to stay cool. Get out of the sun. Don’t over-exert yourself.
Keep air-conditioning at a livable level. However, if there is a power outage or you don’t have air-conditioning, there are things to keep in mind: Lower floors are always cooler as heat rises. Close shades and lower blinds. Go somewhere that does have air conditioning such as a mall, shelter or theater.
Use fans in your house to promote circulation of air. In the evening and at night, open windows to let in cooler air, then close them in the morning along with blinds and shades. Turn off extra sources of heat such as lights and appliances. Don’t use the stove or oven.
Eat lighter meals during a heat wave so the body doesn’t have work as hard digesting, producing more internal heat. Keep your skin covered. If outdoors, wear a hat to protect from sunlight. Wear lighter colors to reflect sunlight. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they are diuretics and dehydrate you.
Remember your pets. They also suffer in a heat wave. Put them in the shower. Give them a cool, wet towel to lie on. Make sure they have plenty of water to drink.
Over three-quarters of your body is composed of fluid. Perspiration is not the only way you lose water. We actually lose more water just by breathing. And you can’t stop that loss. We lose around 2 to 4 cups of water a day by exhaling (16 cups equal one gallon). We lose about 2 cups via perspiration. We lose one half to a full cup just from the soles of our feet. We lose six cups via urination. You lose a more than half a gallon of water a day just existing; more depending on the weather and your activity level.
Dehydration results from inadequate replacement of lost body fluids. It decreases your efficiency and, if injured, increases your susceptibility to shock.
Symptoms of dehydration are: Dark urine with a very strong odor. Low urine output. Dark, sunken eyes. Fatigue and Emotional instability. Delayed capillary refill in fingernail beds. Trench line down center of tongue. Thirst. Last on the list because you are already 2 percent dehydrated by the time you crave fluids.
Treatment: Replace the water as you lose it. Trying to make up a deficit is difficult in an emergency situation, and thirst is not a sign of how much water you need. Most people cannot comfortably drink more than 1 liter of water at a time. Nor do you want to. So, even when not thirsty, drink small amounts of water at regular intervals each hour to prevent dehydration.
Drink sufficient water but don’t overdo it. Over- hydration is a potentially fatal condition. You drink too much water for your kidneys to process. It’s not just the amount, but how quickly you drink the water. Drinking too much water increases the amount of water in your blood. This dilutes the electrolytes, especially sodium. Sodium is critical in balancing the fluid inside and outside of cells. When there is an imbalance from over-hydration, sodium moves inside the cells, causing them to swell. This is particularly dangerous to your brain cells.
Thus one of the first symptoms of over- hydration is a headache. Nausea and vomiting are also symptoms. If it gets worse, more symptoms follow, including high blood pressure, confusion, double vision, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness and cramping. If not caught in time, seizures will occur, brain damage, coma and even death
If you are under physical and mental stress or subject to severe conditions, increase your water intake. Drink enough liquids to maintain a urine output of at least half a quart every 24 hours.
For dehydration that is short of heat stroke: Drink two quarts of water, juice or sports drinks in 2 to 4 hours, not all at once. Small sips every few minutes work best. If vomiting, try ice chips, popsicles and small sips. If also suffering from diarrhea, stay away from using sports drinks as the sugar can make it worse.
The breakdown of the body’s heat regulatory system causes a heat stroke. It occurs when your core body temperature goes to 104 degrees. Other heat injuries, such as cramps or dehydration, do not always precede a heatstroke. Heat stroke is extremely dangerous. As with all other dangerous conditions, call 911, evacuate or get profession help if possible.
Heat Stroke Symptoms: Swollen, beet-red face. Reddened whites of eyes. Victim not sweating. Red, hot and dry skin. Unconsciousness or delirium, which can cause pallor, a bluish color to lips and nail beds (cyanosis), and cool skin.
Heat Stroke Treatment: Fan air over the victim while wetting skin with water. Apply ice packs to the armpits, groin, neck, and back. These areas have more blood vessels on average, so cooling them can reduce the body temperature. Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water. Or a stream or lake. Be sure to wet the victim’s head.
Expect, during cooling: Vomiting. Diarrhea. Struggling. Shivering. Shouting. Prolonged unconsciousness. Rebound heatstroke within 48 hours. Cardiac arrest; be ready to perform CPR. Bottom line: Get to an ER or doctor ASAP! Hot Weather Preparation and Survival
STAY COOL! Hot Weather Preparation and Survival
A free slideshow on this topic and many others about interesting history, survival, writing and other topics is on my web site at www.bobmayer.com/workshops