Responding to hot weather health emergencies
For the Nevada Appeal
This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
Q: How do you help someone having a heat-related health problem?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. There are ways you can help others or yourself cool down and return to a healthy state. The two most common problems are heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
When the body’s temperature rises rapidly and its sweating mechanism fails, its internal temperature can rise to 106 degrees F. or higher within 10 to15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.
Signs of heat stroke vary but may include:
An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F, orally)
Rapid, strong pulse
Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
What to do:
Call for medical assistance and immediately cool the victim.
Place the person in a shady area.
Cool the person rapidly however you can. Examples are immersion, showering, spraying or sponging with cool water; or (if it’s not too humid) wrapping the person in a wet sheet and fanning them.
Monitor the person’s body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the temperature drops to 101-102 degrees F.
If medical assistance is delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
Do not give the victim alcohol to drink.
Sometimes heat stroke causes muscles to twitch uncontrollably. If this occurs, keep the victim from self harm, do not give fluids, do not place anything in the mouth, and if there is vomiting, roll the victim onto his or her side.
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat. Those most prone are the elderly, people with high blood pressure and people working or exercising in the heat.
Signs of heat exhaustion may include:
Nausea or vomiting
Sometimes the skin is cool and moist. The person’s pulse will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. Untreated, it may progress to heat stroke. Seek immediate medical attention if the person has heart problems or high blood pressure, or if the symptoms are severe. Otherwise, assist with cooling and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than an hour.
What to do:
Give the person cool, non-alcoholic beverages
Have them rest
Have the person take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath
Place the person in an air-conditioned environment
Have the person wear lightweight clothing
Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hit, humid weather. It is most common on children. It looks like a red cluster of pimples or water blisters, and most likely occurs on the neck or upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, or in elbow or knee creases.
What to do:
Provide a cooler, less humid environment
Keep the effected area dry
Dust with talcum powder for comfort
Avoid ointments or creams
One last tip
Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. Stay cool, increase your fluid intake, go easy on activities, and wear proper clothing. During hot weather, these efforts can keep you safe and healthy.
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PARENTS: Don’t wait till the last minute to get your children’s immunizations. Schools require proof of vaccinations. Immunizations are offered at Carson City Health and Human Services every Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; closed for lunch.
EPIDEMIC IN CALIFORNIA
In neighboring California, confirmed cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, is now four times that of last year. The five infants who died from it caught it from adults. Infants are not adequately protected by their whooping cough immunizations until they are 6 months old. For this reason, local health officials encourage Tdap boosters for any adult that is in close contact with an infant, as well as regular immunizations for infants and children. Whooping cough boosters for adults and vaccine for infants is available at Carson City Health and Human Services.
Carson City Health and Human Services
Clinic Hours: Monday-Wednesday and Friday
9 a.m.-4 p.m., by appointment
Where: 900 East Long Street, Carson City
Clinic Hours: 8:30-11:30 a.m.; 1-4:30 p.m. Thursdays
No appointment needed
• Pam Graber is the public information officer for Carson City Health and Humans Services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org