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Heat can kill, so be careful, Castleview doctor advises

A full water bottle is essential equipment for outdoor activities.

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in America. According to National Weather Service, heat causes more fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes or hurricanes.

Based on the 10-year average from 2000 to 2009, excessive heat claims an average of 162 lives a year. By contrast, hurricanes killed 117; floods, 65; tornadoes, 62; and lightning, 48.

"Overexposure to heat can be incredibly dangerous, especially for children and the elderly," says Cameron Williams MD, emergency room physician at Castleview Hospital. "With summer in full swing and much of the country experiencing record-high temperatures, it's essential that we're all heat smart. This means taking steps to prevent overexposure and learning to recognize and respond to the signs of heat stroke."

Williams suggests these tips for beating the heat this summer:

Be aware of temperatures and humidity levels, and modify your activities appropriately.

Limit outdoor activities from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., when temperatures are highest.

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of low-sugar or no-sugar fluids.

Stay in relatively cool areas, even when outside. When temperatures are over 90 degrees, seek refuge at an area library, community center or store if you don't otherwise have access to air conditioning.

Avoid hot enclosed places, such as cars and garages. Never leave children or animals unattended in a car, especially when parked in the sun.

Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing.

Avoid or limit your use of alcohol, as it can impair your body's ability to regulate its temperature.

In the event that overexposure to heat does occur, it's important to be able to recognize the signs of heat stroke.

According to Williams, heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia (abnormally elevated body temperature) with accompanying physical and neurological symptoms. Unlike heat exhaustion, a less-severe form of hyperthermia, heat stroke is a true medical emergency that can be fatal if not quickly and appropriately treated.

"The body normally generates heat as a result of metabolism, and is typically able to dissipate the heat by either radiation of heat through the skin or by evaporation of sweat," He says. "However, in extreme heat, high humidity or with vigorous exertion in the sun, the body may not be able to dissipate the heat, resulting in extreme increases in body temperature.

"Another cause of heat stroke is dehydration," He adds.

Signs of overexposure to heat include:

• Pale, clammy skin;

• Muscle cramps;

• Headache;

• Feeling tired and weak;

• Nausea or vomiting;

• Confusion or disorientation; and/or

• Becoming semi-conscious or passing out.

If you or someone you encounter is experiencing a heat-induced illness:

• Call 9-1-1.

• Get the person out of the sun immediately.

• Apply water to help the person cool off.

• Apply ice to the neck or armpits, where large blood vessels are close to the surface.

• Remove any heavy clothing.

• Immerse the body in cool water, either at a swimming pool or in a bathtub or shower.

For more information on heat safety, visit (keyword search: heat) or talk to your physician.

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