Beat the heat

Published 8:12 pm Monday, June 18, 2012

Beaufort County temperatures are expected to reach 91 degrees by the end of the week.

Thanks to eastern North Carolina’s humidity, that 91 degrees will feel a lot closer to 100. Heat like that can do a lot more than make you glisten.

Common heat-related illnesses include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. It is important to know the symptoms of each illness and know how to treat them.

According to the Mayo Clinic, heat cramps are painful muscle contractions that can develop in the calves, stomach or quadriceps.

Heat exhaustion occurs when body temperatures rise as high as 104 degrees. Symptoms include “nausea, vomiting, headache, fainting, weakness and cold, clammy skin,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

If you notice any of these symptoms, get out of the heat, remove excess clothing, sit in front of a fan and wet down your body. Drink plenty of fluids and stay in the company of someone who can monitor your condition and call 911 if the symptoms do not dissipate.

If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition that happens when your body temperature is more than 104 degrees.

People suffering a heatstroke can appear confused or irritable. Their skin may be warm to the touch, but it has stopped sweating to cool itself.

Seek immediate medical care if you or someone with you displays any of these symptoms. Heat strokes can cause brain damage, organ failure or even death, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Once you have had a heatstroke, your chances are greater of developing another one. Take precautions and stay out of the heat as much as possible.

Schedule outdoor activities early in the day or in the evening. Be sure to wear sunscreen. Sunburns prevent the body from cooling itself.

Avoid caffeine and alcoholic drinks, which can dehydrate you. Drink plenty of water and sports drinks.

You don’t have to be indoors all summer. You just have to be careful.