BCFPD News

The Heat is On: Safety Tips
Gale Blomenkamp, Bureau Director/PIO - Sunday, July 12, 2015

With hot summer days and high heat indexes bearing down on Mid Missouri, we would like to offer these safety tips on heat related problems.

When it comes to weather-related events, statistics say extremely hot weather is the leading cause of death. In 2009, 45 people died as a result of extreme heat, down from 71 fatalities in 2008. In 2009, the most dangerous place to be was in a permanent home with little or no air conditioning, where a reported 19 deaths (42%) occurred. According to the latest NOAA Weather Service figures the ten year average for 2000 – 2009:
162 died from heat
117 died from hurricanes
65 died from floods
63 died from tornadoes
42 died from lightning

People suffer heat-related injuries when the body's temperature control system is overloaded. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn't enough. In such cases, a person's body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs. Within 10 minutes the body’s temperature may rise as high as 106 degrees. Several factors affect the body's ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions that can limit the ability to regulate temperature include old age, obesity, fever, heart disease, poor circulation, dehydration, sunburn, and drug and alcohol use.

Heat Injuries:
Heat Injuries can cause permanent disability or even death if not treated promptly. Signs may include:
• An extremely high body temperature (> 103 degrees)
• Red, hot and dry skin without sweating
• Strong, rapid pulse
• Headache
• Muscle cramps
• Nausea/Vomiting
• Dizziness
• Confusion
• Unconsciousness
• Seizure
• Death


Preventing the Heat Injuries:
To protect yourself from Heat Injuries during these hot summer days you should do the following:
• Increase your fluid intake regardless of your physical activity. During heavy exercise or work you should drink at least 16-32 ounces of cool fluids per hour.
• Wear lightweight, light colored and loose fitting clothing. A wide brimmed hat will provide shade and keep your head cool.
• Wear sunscreen. Sunburns are painful and can cause loss of bodily fluids. SPF 15 or higher applied 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapplied according to directions can offer protection.
• Pace yourself. The more you exert in the heat the more heat your body generates in itself. Be aware of how you feel and stop frequently for breaks in a cool, shaded area.
• If you do not need to be outside don’t go. Stay inside in the air-conditioning or in front of a fan. If you don’t have air-conditioning and the temperature is above 90 degrees, a fan will not prevent heat injuries.
• Schedule outside activities around the heat of the day. Start earlier or wait until later in the day to do strenuous activities or work.
• Don’t be alone. If you must carry on activities outside in the heat do so with a partner. You should monitor each other during the activity for signs of a Heat Injury.
• Use common sense. Stay away from hot foods/drinks and heavy meals that will drive up your body temperature. Avoid alcoholic beverages. They will depress the central nervous system and inhibit your ability to protect yourself from heat injuries.

Who is at the Highest Risk of Complications from Heat Emergencies?
The very young and the very old and pets are most susceptible to Heat Emergencies. Due to age, these groups of individuals have lost, or have not fully developed, their abilities to cope with the heat. Pets have a smaller body mass and dogs cool themselves through a different mechanism than sweating. The care provider needs to be especially aware of these groups of patients and should strive to help prevent them from having a Heat Emergency.

The Boone County Fire Protection District wishes everyone a safe and cool summer and please remember: Prevention and Awareness are the keys to avoiding HEAT INJURIES.

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