Arkansas’ summertime heat can be deadly
By Mary Alice Cole
U of A System Division of Agriculture
July 21, 2016
- Loose, light-colored clothing can help
- When humidity is high, sweating may not cool the body
LITTLE ROCK -- Summertime in Arkansas can be the happiest of times, but can turn deadly quickly without the correct knowledge about heat safety.
Whether at work or play, it’s easy to get carried away in the summer heat, ignoring symptoms that could lead to trouble.
“Most heat-related illnesses occur from being out in the heat for too long,” said Lisa Washburn, associate professor-health for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
The temperatures that are most critical are those with a heat index of 90 degrees or more. Heat index is a measure of how hot weather feels to the body. Relative humidity and air temperature are used to produce the index. When the body is exposed to extreme heat, its first reaction is to sweat. However, in high heat, and especially when the humidity is high, sweating is not enough to cool the body.
Washburn offers these tips to help stay safe:
- Those who work outdoors should take frequent breaks, either in the shade or the air conditioning.
- Wear loose clothing that is lighter in color and fabric.
- Inside, take advantage of air conditioning and fans to keep you cool. If you do not have access to either of those things, open the windows and use fans to keep the air moving.
Range of illnesses
Heat can cause a range of illnesses, including: heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat-related illnesses can have a greater effect on the very young and the very old, people with certain medical conditions, and people taking certain medications. Individuals are also at risk due to their own occupation, such as farmers and construction workers who are outside in the heat and unshaded areas, and those who work in a very high-humidity environment.
What is heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion can occur after prolonged exposure to high temperatures; the signs of heat exhaustion are pale skin, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, nausea, profuse sweating, rapid pulse, fast and shallow breathing and muscle cramps. If someone has heat exhaustion, seek medical treatment if symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour. In the meantime, have the person rest in an air-conditioned environment, take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath, and drink plenty of water or other fluids containing electrolytes. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
When the heat index is high, the most important thing is to drink lots of water. When the temperature is 90 degrees or higher it is much easier to become dehydrated.
“A good rule of thumb is to drink a quart of fluids an hour if you are outside,” Washburn said. “On high heat index days, avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol, which cause dehydration.”
What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke is a life-threatening illness that is caused by the body overheating; it usually happens when the body is out in high temperatures for too long or when you are heavily active outside. The signs of heat stroke may vary, but may include a body temperature above 104 degrees, red, hot, and dry skin with no sweating; a rapid strong pulse; dizziness, nausea, confusion, and unconsciousness. If heat stroke is suspected, call for medical assistance and then try to cool down the victim.
For more information about health, contact your county extension office or visit http://uaex.edu/life-skills-wellness/default.aspx.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service