Hot Weather Safety
By Sunshine Bartlett, RN
Boundary Community Hospital Emergency Department
Summer is in full swing here in Boundary County. The temperature has been soaring. Heat-related emergencies are more common this time of year. Knowing how to prevent, spot, and treat these serious conditions is vital.
People at highest risk include those working or exercising outdoors. Also at risk are the very young, the very old, people who are drinking alcohol, and people with certain medical problems. Pets and animals are not immune to heat and can have similar heat-related reactions.
Around 1,500 people in the U.S. die each year from a heat-related condition. Prevention is key. Properly hydrate with water or diluted sports drinks. Dark urine or a decreased urination is a sign you may not be drinking enough. Take breaks in the shade. If possible, wait to do strenuous activities until a cooler part of the day. Never leave children or pets unattended in a car. Leave your pets where there is adequate water and shade. Fill the birdbath for our winged friends.
There are three main types of heat-related illness; heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms of the legs, arms, or abdomen. If these occur, stop activity and rest in a cool, shaded area. Drink water or other cool beverages. Gently massage or stretch the affected muscles. Seek medical help if these measures do not relieve your symptoms.
Heat exhaustion occurs if early signs of heat-related illness are not treated. Signs of this include sweating, headache, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and a rapid heartbeat. These signs are more serious and should not be ignored. Stop activity. Sit or lie down in a cool area. Drink cool water or other liquids. Sponge yourself with water. If symptoms do not improve seek medical assistance.
Heat stroke is the most serious of these emergencies. Symptoms of this can include confusion, fainting, or even seizures. The person’s skin is hot and may be moist or dry. The person will have an excessively high body temperature. If you find someone you suspect may be having a heat stroke, call 911. Remain with the person. Sponge them with cool water. Fan the person’s skin. Apply cold packs to armpits, wrists, and groin if available. Loosen any tight clothing. If they experience a seizure, protect them from harm but do not force anything into their mouth.
If you believe an animal may be experiencing a heat-related emergency, similar cooling measures will also help them. Move the animal to a cool, shaded area if possible. Offer water if they are conscious. Wet them with cool water. Do not submerge the animal in ice water. Seek veterinary help.
Boundary Community Hospital and the Idaho Time Sensitive Emergencies program are committed to aiding in the prevention and timely treatment of these and other emergencies. Stay cool out there!