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Nation contends with heat wave
08.01.2012Numerous states in the U.S. are still reeling from a blistering heat wave that experts say could continue into the first week of August. The New York Times reported in early July that at least 36 people had died from heat-related conditions, and that most of them were elderly. CNN stated that 1.7 million Americans nationwide went for long periods of time with no electricity due to the heat, and meteorologists who spoke with the Times said that this heat wave is strange because of its early-summer timing.
Mayo Clinic describes heat stroke as the most serious heat-induced illnesses, and lists rapid heartbeat, abnormal breathing, cessation of sweating, confusion, lightheadedness, nausea and fainting as tell-tale symptoms. It may very well require the attention of emergency room physicians.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that extreme heat has ended more than 8,000 American lives during the last 24 years. Most of the 36 individuals cited by the Times as having recently passed away were elderly.
According to a summary piece by Andrew Freedman of Climate Central, this summer has brought on record-breaking temperatures in eight Midwestern states, including Texas. These conditions could cause heat stroke and heat exhaustion for residents, which could lead to a trip to an Austin Immediate Care facility.
Attempting to educate the public about possible dangers associated with extreme heat, the CDC has released a short fact sheet. Humidity inhibits the evaporation of sweat, thereby impeding the body's primary mechanism for cooling itself down. Practically any preexisting condition can worsen the body's ability to cope with extreme heat, and make it more difficult to regain a safe level of coolness. Factors the CDC list as potential contributors to heat illness include obesity, old age, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburns and even alcohol. However, good health and youth won't necessarily protect a person who engages in rigorous exercise from the risk of heat diseases.
But as the elderly are the most prone to heat illness, the CDC has special advice for seniors looking to stay safe and healthy amid a heat wave. Fans are okay to use, but air conditioning is the most reliable mechanism to keep body temperature lower. Use of stoves and ovens should be avoided. Drinking water regularly, even if a person isn't thirsty at the time, is highly recommended. Of course, the same safety precautions that apply to all ages also work for older individuals. Loose fitting clothing, checking on friends who may be prone to heat stroke, and taking cold showers, can all help prevent heat illness.
Categories: Health and Wellness
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