Last week, the Arkansas Department of Health recorded the state’s first heat-related death for 2010. The death has prompted local health units to disseminate information regarding safety precautions that need to be taken during periods of extreme heat.

 

Last week, the Arkansas Department of Health recorded the state’s first heat-related death for 2010. The death has prompted local health units to disseminate information regarding safety precautions that need to be taken during periods of extreme heat.
“It is very important for people to learn the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” reported Dr. James Phillips, ADH Infectious Disease Branch chief. “Sometimes we don’t realize how serious this can be until it’s too late.”
Last year Arkansas reported seven heat-related deaths.
“It is very is very important to stay well-hydrated and to get out of the sun and rest regularly when you are working and playing,” said Phillips.
According to the ADH, the elderly, people with the health problems and very young children are the most vulnerable to the extreme heat. However, it is stressed that everyone, including well-conditioned athletes can be stricken by extreme heat.
Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat does not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Some conditions related to risk include age, obesity, dehydration, heart disease, poor circulation and prescription drug and alcohol use.
When heat gain exceeds the amount the body can get rid off body temperatures begin to rise and heat-related illnesses may develop. The body has an internal thermostat designed to help it maintain the proper body temperature. However, sometimes extreme heat can cause the thermostat to malfunction, which can result in these conditions:
•Heat rash – a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating. It usually occurs in young children and is usually not serious.
•Heat cramps  – usually affect people who sweat heavily during strenuous activity. The sweating depletes the body’s salt, magnesium and water. Heat cramps also may be a sign of heat exhaustion.
•Heat exhaustion – a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop in exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids.
•Heat stroke – occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperatures may rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
The ADH says that if you must pursue intense activity during hot weather, follow these safety tips:
•Drink plenty of water.  Fluid replacement is crucial to avoid heat risks. Drink more water than usual before exercising or working in the heat.
•Schedule your strenuous activity during the coolest time of the day.
•Monitor how you feel. If you have difficulty maintaining your regular pace, slow down.
For more information, see the ADA’s Heat Survival Kit at www.health.arkansas.gov