It will be a pretty active -- and hot -- weekend in the Iowa Great Lakes, so I thought I'd pass along some information from Lakes Regional Healthcare.
Hot and humid temperatures pose several heat related illnesses. Lakes Regional Healthcare (LRH) encourages people to understand how to recognize symptoms related to overexposure to high temperatures and how to care for those experiencing such symptoms.
Overexposure to high temperatures can cause heat exhaustion, heatstroke, or heat cramps. High humidity adds to the risk of these illnesses, making it harder to sweat, which is the body's way of cooling off.
Heat exhaustion is caused by prolonged exposure to heat that results in excessive loss of fluids from heavy sweating. Mild to moderate sweating is good because it cools the body. However, excessive sweating depletes the body of essential electrolytes, which hinders blood circulation and the ability of the brain to function. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include fatigue, low blood pressure, and sometimes collapse. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion, replace lost fluids by drinking cool, slightly salty beverages. In addition, move to a cool environment and lie flat or with your head lower than the rest of your body. Luckily, once rehydrated a full recovery rapidly occurs.
Heatstroke, also known as sunstroke, is a serious, life-threatening condition in which a person is unable to sweat enough to lower body temperature. It results from a combination of high temperature and high humidity. A heatstroke victim appears confused, disoriented and flushed, and has hot, dry skin. In addition, the heart rate increases, quickly reaching 160 to 180 beats per minute, in contrast to the normal rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute. The breathing rate usually increases and the body temperature also rises rapidly to 104° to 106°.
Since heatstroke can develop suddenly or gradually, immediate medical treatment is required. The victim should be taken to a hospital quickly. According to LRH Director of Outpatient Services Lois Hawn, "Heatstroke patients often never even realize what hit them because it can occur with little or no warning." She suggested that if anyone suspects they or another person is suffering from heatstroke they call 911 immediately.
While waiting for emergency medical care to arrive, the heatstroke victim should be wrapped in wet bedding or clothing, immersed in a lake, stream, or cool bathtub, or cooled with ice. The victim should also be placed in a cool, shady place and given cold water with one teaspoon of salt per pint.
Heat cramps occur during physical exertion in extreme heat. They are caused by excessive loss of fluids and electrolytes and result in severe muscle spasms due to heavy sweating. Manual laborers and athletes are especially susceptible to heat cramps. If you or someone you know experiences heat cramps, drink beverages or eat foods that contain salt.
The hospital's waiting areas and dining room are available to those individuals without air conditioning who need a break from the heat and humidity.
Anyone interested in more information about heat related illness can call LRH at 712-336-8648.