Take precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses, deaths
Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2023
Submitted by Dr. Wes Stubblefield
Alabama Department of Public Health
With temperatures in the triple digits and high heat indices predicted for this week, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) advises the public to be alert to the warning signs of heat illnesses. Heat-related illnesses occur when the body is exposed to high temperatures and high humidity.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who are at highest risk of heat illnesses include people ages 65 and older, children younger than 2, and people with chronic diseases or mental illness. Others who are disproportionately affected include athletes, outdoor workers, and people in low-income households. Anyone exposed to high temperatures or extreme heat, however, can experience symptoms when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. The ADPH and the CDC urge the public to stay cool, stay hydrated and stay informed.
The most common heat-related illnesses are as follows:
- Heat cramps
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat stroke
Heat cramps – include muscle pains or spasms (abdomen, arms or legs), profuse sweat, and high salt concentration in the sweat.
Heat exhaustion– is associated with heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, or vomiting and fainting. Other possible symptoms may include cool and moist skin, fast and weak pulse rate, fast and shallow breathing, or irritability. Older adults, those with high blood pressure. and those working or exercising in a hot environment are prone to heat exhaustion. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it may progress to heatstroke.
Heat stroke or sun stroke – the most serious heat-related illness, a life-threatening problem, may occur when the body is unable to control its temperature. Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 -15 minutes. Signs include an extremely high body temperature, red, hot and dry or moist skin, rapid, strong pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, dehydration, combativeness or confusion, and unconsciousness. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and even with immediate treatment, it can be life-threatening or cause serious long-term problems.
Recommendations are that people drink plenty of fluids except alcohol or caffeinated beverages to prevent dehydration, stay in an air-conditioned room, keep out of the sun by seeking shelter, wear a wide-brimmed hat, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, take cool showers or baths, and reduce or eliminate strenuous activities during the hottest times of the day. never leave people or pets in a parked vehicle.
Persons with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, poor circulation, or previous stroke problems, people of older and younger ages, and those taking certain medications are at greater risk of becoming ill in hot weather.
For more information, visit or https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov or https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/injuryprevention/index.html.