Wednesday, July 27, 2005
By James Lomuscio
With more than 90-degree temperatures that have thinned even beach attendance, the Westport Weston Health District (WWHD) today cautioned residents to be aware of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and to take steps to protect themselves.
Hot: the temperature sign at the Bank of America branch on Post Road East told the story this afternoon. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jonathan Thrope for WestportNow.com
“Most heat-related deaths occur during the summer,” said Sue Jacozzi, WWHD health educator. “By knowing your risk and what prevention measures to take, heat-related illness and death can be prevented.”
Jacozzi added that the WWHD has not yet received any reports of heat-related illnesses in town, and she hopes that an awareness campaign will keep it that way.
Maura Romaine, spokesperson for Norwalk Hospital, said while there have been no emergency room admissions for heat exhaustion and heat stroke, “We are seeing a lot more people coming in with respiratory problems, such as asthma, because of the heat.”
Jacozzi said people suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. The body normally cools itself by sweating, but under some conditions, sweating isn’t enough, Jacozzi said.
If a person’s body temperature rises rapidly, very high temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs, she said.
Heat exhaustion, she explained, occurs when the body loses excessive amounts of water and salt contained in sweat. It can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.
Warning signs include: heavy sweating; paleness, muscle cramps; fatigue; weakness; dizziness; headache; nausea; vomiting and fainting.
More serious is heat stroke, which includes: red, hot and dry skin with no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; a throbbing headache; dizziness, nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness.
Jacozzi warned that everyone is susceptible to heat-related illnesses, although the elderly, very young, and people with certain chronic diseases are at greater risk.
Some behaviors that also put people at increased risk, Jacozzi said, are: alcohol consumption; strenuous outdoor activity; and taking medications that inhibit perspiration and impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperatures.
“Air conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat related illness and death,” Jacozzi said.
Other suggestions for preventing a heat-related illness include: drinking water or nonalcoholic fluids frequently; wearing lightweight, light colored, loose fitting clothing; and reducing or eliminating strenuous activities.
She also recommended periodically checking on neighbors who do not have air conditioning.
“Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention,” Jacozzi said. “Staying cool and making simple changes in your fluid intake, activities, and clothing during hot weather can help you remain safe and healthy.”
Posted 07/27/05 at 05:02 PM Permalink