Heat-Related Sickness Increases

Tuesday, July 14th 2009, 9:46 am

By: News 9

Staff and Wire Reports

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Emergency Medical Services Authority responded to a number of calls involving people overcome by the heat, including one case in Tulsa involving a death.

A heat advisory remains in effect for most of the state through Wednesday.

The dead man died after being found unconscious at a west Tulsa construction site Monday. He showed symptoms of heat-related illness, and alcohol use is suspected to have complicated his medical condition.

EMSA treated seven other people in Tulsa Monday for heat-related symptoms but none of those had life-threatening injuries. EMSA also transported six people to hospitals in the Oklahoma City area for medical issues related to the heat.

Temperatures in Oklahoma City reached 105 degrees while Tulsa reported 101.

The Oklahoma City-County Health Department released the following information about heat stress:

What are some of the warning signs relating to heat stress? There are various health-related medical conditions that can increase a persons chances of getting sick in hot weather:

• A weak or damaged heart
• Hypertension
• Problems with circulation
• Diabetes
• A previous stroke
• Being overweight
• Infection or fever
• Diarrhea
• Drinking alcoholic beverages
• Skin diseases or sunburn that may reduce sweating

Many medications can make you much more vulnerable to the heat. If you take medicine for high blood pressure, nervousness, depression, poor circulation or sleeplessness, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

• What are some of the "early warning signs" of heat stress? Hot weather makes most people feel uncomfortable and can cause a lack of energy or slight loss of appetite. These are mild signs of heat stress, and unless they last a prolonged time, there is no need to be alarmed.

It is important to pay attention to the early warning signs of heat illness. Heat stress can be fatal, and the serious signs mean that you are losing the battle.

• What are the serious signs of heat stress?
• Dizziness
• Rapid heartbeat
• Diarrhea
• Nausea
• Throbbing headache
• Dry skin (no sweating)
• Chest pain
• Significant weakness
• Mental changes
• Breathing problems
• Vomiting
• Cramps

What can be done to avoid a heat stroke?

KEEP COOL. Spend as much time as you can in cooler surroundings, such as a cooler room in your home, an air-conditioned shopping mall, senior center, public library or movie theatre.

AIR CONDITIONING. can provide lifesaving relief from heat stress, especially if you have a medical condition like heart disease.

COOLING WITH FANS. Fans can draw cool air into your home at night or help provide good indoor air-circulation during the day. Air movement reduces heat stress by helping to remove extra body heat. When it is extremely hot, a fan may cause you to gain body heat by blowing very hot air over your body.

BATHS AND SHOWERS. Cool baths or showers (with water temperature around 75°F) provide amazing relief from heat, cool water removes extra body heat 25 times faster than cool air.

CLOTHING. Wear comfortable, lightweight clothing when you are at home. Lightweight, light colored, loose fitting clothing is more comfortable in hot weather. Cotton is very comfortable. Wear a hat or use a parasol or umbrella to protect your head and neck when you are outdoors.

• Drink often and in reasonable amounts. Don't try to drink a lot of coffee or tea. They are fine in moderation, but water is your best bet
• In hot weather, your body needs more water. Don't wait until you are thirsty, because your body needs more fluid than thirst will indicate. By the time you feel thirsty, you may already be dangerously low on water.
• If you have a disease, a medical condi¬tion or problem with body water balance, check with your doctor for advice on how much water you should drink in hot weather.

SLOW DOWN. Take it easy, especially at the start of hot weather when your body is less prepared for the heat. Physical activity pro¬duces body heat.

WATCH WHAT YOU EAT. Avoid hot foods and heavy meals. They add heat to your body. Try using your cooking range less. Cook your meals during the cooler part of the day, before 10 a.m. or after 7 p.m.

WATCH YOUR SALT INTAKE. Check with your doctor before you increase the amount of salt or potassium in your diet. Do not take salt tablets without your doctor's permission.

AVOID ALCOHOL. Alcohol interferes with your body's fight against heat stress. It can put a strain on your heart.

For More Information:

Oklahoma City-County Health Department

Oklahoma State Department of Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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