As we all know, the summers in Alabama are long, with temperatures above 90 degrees almost every day in July and August, and can continue into much of September as well. Very few cold fronts move through the state during the summer, so the only relief we receive from the hot and humid airmass is from the “hit and miss” showers and thunderstorms and associated cloud cover.
During hot and humid weather, our body’s ability to cool itself is challenged. When we heat too rapidly, or when we lose too much fluid or salt through dehydration or sweating, a heat-related illness could occur. It’s important to recognize these illnesses in yourself and others, or better yet, how to prevent them all together!
Heat cramps may be the first sign of a heat-related illness, and may lead to heat exhaustion or stroke. Symptoms include painful muscle cramps and spasms, usually in the legs and abdomen, and/or heavy sweating. As far as first aid, apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve the spasm. Give sips of water unless the person complains of nausea, then stop giving water.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, possible muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, fainting, cool/pale/clammy skin, or a fast/weak pulse. For first aid, move the person to a cooler place, lay them down and loosen clothing, offer sips of water, and apply cool wet clothes to as much of the body as possible. If the person vomits more than once, seek immediate medical attention.
Heat stroke symptoms include an altered mental state, body temperature above 103 degrees F, fainting or losing consciousness, and skin that is hot/ red/ dry or moist. People also have a throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, and/or shallow breathing. If this occurs, this is a severe medical emergency. Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Also, move the person to a cooler location, reduce body temperature with cool cloths, but do NOT give fluids.
The very young and elderly are most at risk to heat related illnesses, but they can occur with anyone. To avoid these issues, here are some practical ways to avoid them all together.
If outdoors, limit strenuous activities, stay hydrated (avoid all alcoholic drinks) and find shade as much as possible. Check on the elderly often and make sure their air conditioning is working properly. NEVER leave pets or children in a vehicle, even for a minute or two.
Unfortunately, many deaths related to heat and vehicles are from accidentally forgetting someone else is in the vehicle. LOOK before you LOCK.
Alabama has an incredible wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy year-round. Let’s take advantage of them while staying safe during our summer month.