Summer isn’t done with Thurston County yet. A quick look at the weather forecast is all it takes to know more hot weather is headed our way. It’s important to remember that all that lovely sunshine can have many negative impacts, including sunburn, heat exhaustion, and the more serious heatstroke. There can also be complications of those illnesses. Heatstroke is caused by your body overheating. Understandably, it’s most common during the hot summer months, and is often tied to strenuous exercise in hot weather.
There are lots of ways to protect yourself, as well as your family and friends, from heatstroke:
▪ Stay indoors and in an air-conditioned environment.
▪ Drink plenty of water and avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine, or lots of sugar.
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▪ Avoid dressing babies in heavy clothing or wrapping them in warm blankets.
▪ Make sure pets have plenty of water and a shady place to get out of the sun.
▪ If you take prescription medications, check with a doctor about the effects of sun and heat exposure.
▪ Cover windows with awnings or louvers to reduce the heat enter a house by as much as 80 percent.
▪ At first signs of heat illness (dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps), move to a cooler location, rest for a few minutes and slowly drink a cool beverage. Seek medical attention immediately if you do not feel better.
▪ Check up on the elderly, the sick, and people without air conditioning.
▪ NEVER leave kids or pets in vehicles with the windows closed. Always look before you lock.
▪ There are other places to stay cool in Thurston County that are open to the public.
People at higher risk of heatstroke include: children, the elderly, those with medical conditions, people who have been drinking alcohol (even caffeine, sugar, and nicotine can increase your risk). When untreated, heatstroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The longer a person goes without being treated, the more likely the risk of serious complications. It’s important to know what to look for, and when to get help. According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of heatstroke include:
▪ High body temperature (104 degrees Fahrenheit, or higher).
▪ Altered mental state or behavior, which might include confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures or even coma.
▪ Alteration in sweating. When heatstroke is brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel dry or slightly moist.
▪ Nausea and vomiting.
▪ Flushed skin.
▪ Rapid, often shallow, breathing.
▪ Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
If you think that you, or someone you know, is suffering from heatstroke, call 911. Try to cool down. Move into the shade, rest and remove any excess clothing, drink some cool water, and don’t be afraid to use water (bath tub, shower, garden hose, or a sponge/wet towels) to help get cool.
While heat stroke is more dangerous, sun burns are a lot more common and is more than just painful. Sun burn is tied to skin cancer. It also alters the skin’s ability to cool itself. Luckily, sun burn can be prevented—by covering up, staying in the shade, using sun hats, sun glasses, and safe sunblock.
There is still plenty of time to get outside and enjoy all the beauty and fun that Thurston County has to offer. So grab your sun hat, your sun block, and your water bottle and stay safe out there.