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Beat the heat with some cool advice
By Kaitlyn Byrne
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Whether gardening, working or enjoying a baseball game, Mississippians should protect themselves from the heat of summer.
Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. For example, in high humidity, sweat cannot evaporate rapidly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly, said Ann Twiner, with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
“When it comes to heat safety, prevention is the best defense,” Twiner said. “There are several things people can do to decrease the risks associated with working in extreme heat situations.”
Twiner suggested wearing light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Hydration is important, but those working in the heat should avoid liquids containing caffeine or alcohol because they cause the body to lose more fluid.
She said a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables will help replenish nutrients the body loses through sweating.
“Another good idea is to schedule the heaviest outside work in the early morning or late afternoon when it is a bit cooler,” she said. “Acclimate yourself to the heat, and increase your workload gradually until you adapt.”
Josephine Tate, Extension area health agent, said people should pay attention to warning signs of becoming overheated. Heavy sweating, extreme weakness, dizziness, nausea and muscle cramps are all indicators.
When outdoor activity in the heat is unavoidable, Tate said water is vital to safety.
“Drink water frequently and make sure it’s enough water so that you never become thirsty,” she said. “Drink about two glasses of water before starting activities in the heat and one glass every 20 minutes while doing the activity outdoors.”
Tate also warned against leaving children and pets in unattended vehicles during extreme heat. Even with the windows cracked open, interior temperatures can rise almost 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes.
“Anyone left inside is at risk for serious heat-related illnesses or even death,” she said.
Heat stroke, stress, exhaustion, cramps and rashes can result from being exposed to high temperatures for long periods of time, Tate said.
“Each of these conditions brings problems of its own,” she said. “Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. When this happens, the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool down.”
Twiner said heat stroke could result in death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given. In the event of a heat stroke, she said the first step is to call 911.
“You should also get the victim to a shady area and cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can,” she said. “For example, use a wet cloth over the body, put ice packs in the armpits or groin or move the victim to an air conditioned room or car, if possible.”
Age and health affect the risk, Twiner said.
“The very young and the very elderly are at the greatest risk,” she said. “Obesity, fever, chronic disease, and prescription drug and alcohol use also increase chances of suffering from heat-related problems.”