Summertime Temperatures Call for Increased Caution

Contact: James McCurtis Jr. (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

June 22, 2010

LANSING - Now that the summer has officially arrived, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has tips to keep you safe this summer when the heat reaches 80 degrees or above. Major heat can create stress on your body and mind. Very hot days, with temperatures in the upper 80's and above, can cause body temperature to rise, resulting in muscle cramps, dizziness and eventually making you dangerously ill.

To prevent symptoms of heat stress, adults and children should stay completely hydrated by drinking water frequently, even when you may not be thirsty. Try to stay clear of alcoholic and caffeinated drinks as they cause dehydration.

The sun's rays can be very dangerous especially from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., so try to plan your daily activities accordingly. If you must do work outdoors, take frequent breaks in shaded, cool areas. Wearing light colored, loose fitting clothing will help you stay cool during the hot summer days. Fabrics like cotton are a good choice as they allow air to circulate through clothing and to your body.

It is important to know the different signs of heat-related illnesses. Heat-related illness target young children and the elderly, so it is important to monitor these citizens by checking them frequently. The first stage of heat-related illness is dehydration, which occurs when body fluids are lost by sweating and not replaced. Dry mouth, thirst, headache, dizziness, cramps, excessive fatigue and irritability are all symptoms of dehydration. When experiencing dehydration, follow these tips:

- Move to a shaded or air-conditioned area;

- Replace fluids by drinking water; and

- Consult a physician if symptoms persist or if there is an existing condition that could be complicated by increased fluid intake.

Heat cramps are another indication of a potential heat-related emergency. Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms caused by heavy exertion and high body temperatures. To treat heat cramps, follow these tips:

- Seek shade or cool, comfortable place;

- Drink a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes;

- Gently stretch the cramped muscle and hold for about 20 seconds; and

- If symptoms persist or worsen, seek emergency medical treatment

The more serious stage of heat-related illness is heat exhaustion, which typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid place that causes sweating. This fluid loss can cause reduced blood flow to vital organs resulting in shock. Signs of exhaustion include headache, moist and pale skin, nausea, dizziness, weakness and exhaustion. Follow these tips for exhaustion:

- Seek shade or a cool, comfortable place;

- Drink a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes;

- Remove or loosen any tight clothing;

- Apply a cool, wet towel or compress; and

- If symptoms persist or worsen, seek emergency medical treatment.

Finally, heat stroke is the most severe stage of heat-related illness. A heat stroke, or also called sunstroke, is life threatening and immediate emergency medical attention is vital. During a heat stroke, the body's temperature control stops working and temperature can rise very quickly. Seek emergency treatment immediately if the following symptoms are present:

- Vomiting;

- Decreased alertness level or complete loss of consciousness;

- High body temperature (sometimes as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit);

- Red, hot and dry skin;

- Rapid, weak pulse; and

- Rapid, shallow breathing.

Another important concern during the summer months is skin cancer, or melanoma. Although this is present year round, risks increase during summer months. You can reduce your chances of skin cancer by using sunscreen, wearing sunglasses and wearing appropriate clothing that covers the body.

Though it is extremely serious and can be life threatening, most heat-related illnesses are preventable. So when engaging in your summer activities remember it is always important to consult a physician about any concerns that you may have and remember these simple tips to lead a happier, healthier lifestyle. For more information and tips on sun safety and the effects of sun exposure, please speak with your doctor or visit our Web site at