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When the Temperature's Rising ...

... Protect yourself from heat illnesses

SATURDAY, June 7, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Warm weather's on the way -- just make sure it doesn't get too hot to handle.

Hot temperatures and high humidity can lead to serious health problems, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says about 175 Americans die from extreme heat each year.

Heat-related illnesses occur when your body temperature control systems overload and your body is no longer able to cool itself, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness or weakness, faintness, nausea or vomiting, and headache or dizziness. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to potentially fatal heat stroke.

Certain people are most at danger from heat. They include young children, elderly people and people who are sick or overweight. Men are more susceptible to heat than women. That's because men sweat more and become dehydrated more quickly than women.

NOAA offers some advice on how to cope with hot and humid days:

  • Avoid the heat if you can by staying inside air-conditioned buildings. If you don't have a home air conditioner, go to public places with air conditioning, such as malls. Just two hours a day in air conditioning lowers your risk of suffering heat-related illness.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. Lightweight, light-colored clothing is best because it helps reflect heat and maintain normal body temperature. Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Drink lots of water, fruit juice or sports drinks. Don't drink coffee, tea, cola or alcohol -- they just make you more dehydrated. Avoid foods high in protein, which increase your body's metabolic heat.
  • If you have to go outside to exercise or do yard work, go out in the early morning or late evening hours.

More information

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

SOURCES: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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