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Extreme summer heat can cause heat-related (hyperthermia) illnesses, and even death. Everyone should be careful in hot weather, especially elderly people, young children, and those who are overweight. While chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory illnesses increase an individual's risk, there are things people can do to protect themselves from heat-related ailments such as heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Here are some tips for beating the summer heat and safeguarding your health in extreme heat events.

Heatstroke is a serious illness characterized by a body temperature greater then 105 degrees.  Symptoms may include dry red skin, convulsions, disorientation, delirium and coma.  Onset of heatstroke can be rapid: a person can go from feeling apparently well to a seriously ill condition within minutes.  Treatment of heatstroke involves the rapid lowering of body temperature, using a cool bath or wet towels.  A heatstroke victim should be kept in a cool area; emergency medical care should be obtained by dialing 911.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heatstroke that may develop due to a combination of several days with high temperatures and dehydration in an individual.  Signs of heat exhaustion include extreme weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, or headache.  Victims may also vomit or faint.  Heat exhaustion is treated with plenty of liquids and rest in a cool, shaded area.  Those on a low-sodium diet or with other health problems should contact a doctor.



●          Drink plenty of fluids such as water and fruit juices to prevent dehydration. Be aware that alcohol can impair the body's sweat mechanism, as can fairly common medications such as antihistamines and diuretics. Avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine.
●          Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes.
●          Avoid direct sunlight by staying in the shade or by wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
●          When possible, stay in air-conditioned areas.  If your home is not air-conditioned, visit a friend or relative with air conditioning, or consider a visit to an air conditioned public place such as a movie theater, shopping mall, restaurant or public library. 
●          NEVER leave pets or young children in a car, even with the windows cracked.
●          Check on elderly relatives or neighbors at least daily.
●          Take it easy when outdoors.  Athletes and those who work outdoors should, if possible, take short breaks when feeling fatigued.  Schedule physical activity during the morning or evening when it is cooler.


Signs and Symptoms:   First Aid Treatment:
Heat Cramps: Occur because of loss of water and salt from heavy sweating. Can cause muscle pains and spasms, but are not as serious as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.   Get victim to a cool place and have him/her rest comfortably. Lightly stretch the cramped muscle. Give the person half a glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can worsen the condition.
Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms include cool, moist, pale, or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness and exhaustion. Body temperature may be near normal.   Get victim out of the heat and to a cool place. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths such as sheets or towels. If the person is conscious, give cool water to drink, making sure he/she drinks slowly - half a glass every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids that contain alcohol or caffeine. Let the victim rest in a comfortable position and watch him/her for changes in condition.
Heat Stroke: Symptoms may include hot, red skin; fainting or passing out; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If the person is sweating from heavy work or exercise, his/her skin may be wet; otherwise it will feel dry.   Heat Stroke is a life-threatening situation. Help is needed FAST! Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. move the person to a cooler place or a cool bath or wrap wet sheets around his/her body and fan the victim. Watch for signs of breathing problems. Keep the person lying down and continue to cool the body however you can. If the victim refuses water or is vomiting, or has fainted, do not give anything to eat or drink.



Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene - Office of Preparedness and Response

FEMA - Federal Emergency Management Agency

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Website


Allegany County Health Department
12501-12503 Willowbrook Road
PO Box 1745
Cumberland, Maryland 21501-1745
(301) 759-5000
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