Bergen County Department of Health Services advises that the young, the elderly and those with chronic diesases have a higher risk of developing heat-related illnesses and precautions should be taken to protect them from excessive amounts of heat.
Heat-related illnesses include heatstroke and heat exhaustion among others.
- The most serious of these is heatstroke, which occurs when the body loses the ability to cool itself. Heatstroke can occur very quickly and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include high body temperature, hot and dry skin, a rapid and strong pulse and possibly delirium or unconsciousness.
- Heat exhaustion is milder than heatstroke and can develop over several days of high temperatures. It occurs when the body's water and salts lost through perspiration are not adequately replaced. Victims of heat exhaustion may have pale, clammy skin and sweat profusely. Although the body temperature is close to normal, those with heat exhaustion may feel weak, tired, dizzy, have a headache and sometimes cramps. Serious cases of heat exhaustion can require hospitalization.
- Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day is one of the most important safeguards against heat-related illnesses. Avoid alcohol and caffeine which lead to dehydration.
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- If possible, reduce physical activity or reschedule it for the cooler part of the day. Wear light-colored and loose clothing and wear a hat in the sun.
- When the temperature rises into the high 90s, a fan will not help prevent heat-related illnesses. Those without air conditioning should take a cool shower or bath or spend a few hours in an air-conditioned space such as a library or shopping mall.
- To prevent heat-related illnesses in children, do not overdress them and be sure they drink plenty of fluids. Heat is especially threatening to children under 5, particularly those under a year old.
- Check on elderly relatives and neighbors to see if they need help to keep cool or require medical attention resulting from the heat. Provide cool drinks within reach for those who are bedridden or have problems walking.
- Certain medications, including tranquilizers and drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease, can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses. Consult a healthcare provider for advice.
- Temperatures in a closed car can quickly soar to dangerously high levels. Never leave children, the elderly or disabled or pets in a closed car, not even for a minute.
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