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Staying Cool During Deadly Heat


The current weather map says it all: Two-thirds of the country is colored fiery orange and red, reflecting the dangerously hot weather making life miserable for millions of Americans.

Combine that with the power outages affecting some 2 million people and you have a recipe for an increased risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Heat stroke can occur quickly in seniors and those with chronic illness, as well as  in children and pets.

And with the Fourth of July holiday coming up when a lot of people spend time outdoors, it's a good time to be reminded of the importance of staying cool, hydrated and recognizing the symptoms of heat distress.

Our body sweats to keep us cool, but if we don't replace the water lost through sweating, the body can overheat with serious, sometimes fatal, results.

See AlsoSummer Cooling Costs and Older Households

That's why you should keep drinking cool liquids throughout a hot day and not just wait until you feel thirsty. If you're feeling thirsty, your body already has a serious fluid deficit.

To keep your body hydrated, avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks. Choose instead water and sports drinks, ice pops, even cold watermelon to help replace the electrolytes lost during sweating.

The symptoms of heat stroke, according to the  Mayo Clinic, include the following:

  • High body temperature.
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating. 
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Racing heart rate.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle cramps or weakness.
  • Confusion and slurred speech.
If you think a person is experiencing heat stroke, call for emergency medical help and try and cool the overheated victim.

If they are conscious, get them to drink some water. Soak their clothes with cool water and sponge cool water on their body. You can apply ice packs to their armpits, head and groin.

Also keep in mind that heat cramps and heat exhaustion can precede heat stroke -- consider them the warning signs that the heat is getting to you.

Heat cramps, which can occur in the arms, legs and stomach, can be treated by drinking fluids with electrolytes, such as a sports drink, and cooling down in a shady or air-conditioned area.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the symptoms of heat cramps are ignored. It's usually accompanied by headache, dizziness and nausea.

And please -- don't forget to take precautions with your pet during the hot weather.

"Heat exhaustion is just as dangerous for animals as it is for humans," Carolynn MacAllister, a veterinarian with Oklahoma State University, told the New York Daily News.

She suggests taking your dog for a walk during the coolest part of the day and never leaving your pet in a car or garage -- or outside for long periods of time -- because animals can quickly become overheated.

In other health news:

New drug for overactive bladder approved by FDA. The Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug, mirabegron, to treat the need to frequently or involuntarily urinate. An estimated 33 million Americans suffer from an overactive bladder condition.

Prostate surgery linked to follow-up bladder operation.  One in 20 men who have their prostate gland removed may need a second surgery for severe loss of bladder control, new research from Canada suggests. Reuters reports that the study also found that rates of subsequent surgery for urinary incontinence doubled between five and 15 years after the first operation.

Caffeine may help elderly muscles. The Los Angeles Times reports that a study on mice muscles finds that caffeine may help strengthen ailing, older muscles.

Photo credit:  Jim Urquhart/Reuters

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