Jessamine County Coroner

The Heat is On

The first day of summer is June 20th,  but the temperatures are already soaring. Along with the temperature,

comes the increased risk of heat-related illness. These illnesses occur as a result of heat exposure, and may

include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting) and heat rash. Even short periods

of high temperature can cause serious health problems. In such heat-related illness, the body's attempt to

cool itself by sweating may cause dehydration to the point that muscles may spasm causing heat cramps. As

fluid loss increases, the individual may be so dehydrated that there is not enough water to sweat and heat

exhaustion or heat stroke may occur. Heat exhaustion, which occurs before heat stroke in most cases, is when

the body's temperature is not above 104 F and generally occurs in individuals who are unaccustomed to

working or exercising in the heat. Other than an elevated temperature, heavy breathing, palor or paleness,

muscle cramps and pain, fatigue, weakness, dizzy and nausea are common. The skin may be cool and moist,

and the heart rate may be fast and weak. Heat stroke on the other hand, is the most severe form of heat related

illness and a true medical emergency. This occurs when the body's ability to regulate its internal

temperature has failed. The body's temperature rises rapidly in excess of 105 F leading to brain and organ

damage. The extent of injury depends on the duration of exposure to excessive heat and the peak

temperature attained. Other than a body temperature above 104 F, other signs may include skin that is red

and hot, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, headache, dizziness, loss of coordination, nausea and vomiting,

confusion, seizures and unconsciousness or coma. Exertional heat stroke generally occurs in young, healthy

individuals who engage in strenuous activity in hot weather. Anytime the amount of water excreted from the

body exceed the amount taken in, we are in danger of dehydration. We lose water normally by sweating

which is a mechanism of the body to cool itself, breathing out moist air vapor, and urination. About 75% of the

body's weight is made up of water, and in a normal day, an individual has to drink a significant amount of

water to replace this routine loss. An average adult should drink at least four 16 ounce bottles of water daily in

normal temperatures and at rest. When we exercise, play or work in extreme heat, we need to increase our

water intake to make up for what is lost through sweating. While hot weather and exercise are major culprits

in dehydration, it can also occur with illness in the form of fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Prevention of any

heat-related illness is best accomplished through proper planning and preparation, such as increasing fluid

intake, wearing appropriate clothing and sunscreen. Treatment for heat stroke is to call 911 and begin cooling

the patient immediately. For heat exhaustion, drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages, eat salty snacks, and rest in

shade or air-conditioning.

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