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Overheating Can Be a Killer

Beware of summer heat health dangers

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

SATURDAY, Aug. 16, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Don't get burned by heat-related illness this summer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there were 8,015 heat-related deaths in the United States between 1979 and 1999.

Types of heat illness range from minor to severe, including painful heat cramps to potentially deadly heat stroke, says U.S. Federal Occupational Health.

Certain people are most at risk of suffering heat-related illnesses. That includes people over age 65, young children, and overweight and obese people. Those with blood or sweat-related illnesses are also at greater risk. That includes people with low blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, dehydration or malnutrition.

Men are more at risk than women. That's because men sweat more than women, causing them to dehydrate more quickly.

Heat-related illnesses occur when your body temperature control systems overload and your body can no longer cool itself, the CDC says.

Your body sheds heat in different ways: by varying the rate and depth of blood circulation; by sweating; and even by panting. However, once the air temperature reaches 95 degrees F, your body relies on sweating to control its internal temperature, says the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

High humidity gums up your sweating cooling system. Sweating relies on evaporation to remove the moisture from your skin and cool you down. When there's high humidity, there's a great deal more water vapor in the air. That reduces the amount of evaporation that can take place to keep you cool.

More information

The American Red Cross has information on how to cope with a heat wave.

SOURCES: U.S. Federal Occupational Health; U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
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