Health & Safety

July 3, 2014

Be aware of heat injury signs

Dave Key,
Safety Director NTC and Fort Irwin

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States. On average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.

During extremely hot weather the body’s ability to cool itself is affected. This happens when the body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost through dehydration or sweating.

Children, adults and pets enclosed in parked vehicles are at great risk

In 2013, 43 children in the U.S. and an untold numbers of pets died from hyperthermia, because they were left inside a vehicle. Hyperthermia is an acute condition that occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can handle. Hyperthermia can occur even on a mild day. Studies have shown that the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rapidly rise to a dangerous level for children, pets and even adults. If you see a child unattended in a vehicle, call 911.

Leaving car windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children, because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults. A dark dashboard or seat can reach temperatures of 180 degrees Fahrenheit to more than 200.

Make sure your child’s safety seat and safety belt buckles aren’t too hot before securing your child.

Hazards of excessive heat

As the heat index rises above 103 degrees there is a high risk for heat-related illness. Heat kills by pushing the human body beyond its limits. Under normal conditions, perspiration evaporates and cools the body. However, in extreme heat the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.

Conditions that cause heat cramps in a 17-year-old may result in heat exhaustion in someone 40 and heat stroke in a person over 60.

Sunburn can significantly retard the skin’s ability to shed excess heat.

Heat-related illness can be caused by overexposure to the sun or any situation involving extreme heat. Heat stroke is the most serious and life-threatening condition, and can occur by ignoring the signals of heat exhaustion. Heat stroke develops when body systems are overwhelmed by heat and begin to stop functioning. Symptoms include: flushed, hot, dry skin; fainting; a rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing; vomiting, and; increased body temperature of more than 104 degrees. Body temperature may rise to 106 or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Move an injured person into the shade, loosen clothing, wet and fan the skin, and place ice-packs in the armpits and on the neck. Take the injured person to a clinic or emergency room if signs or symptoms worsen or do not improve within 60 minutes.




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