By Betsy Crick
People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.
Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions related to risk include age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use.
Who’s at Greatest Risk?
Because heat-related deaths are preventable, people need to be aware of who is at greatest risk and what actions can be taken to prevent a heat-related illness or death. The elderly, the very young, and people with mental illness and chronic diseases are at highest risk. However, even young and healthy individuals can succumb to heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.
To protect your health when temperatures are extremely high, remember to keep cool and use common sense:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Replace salt and minerals
- Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen
- Schedule outdoor activities carefully
- Pace yourself
- Stay cool indoors
- Use a buddy system
- Do not leave children in cars
- Use common sense
For more information on how heat impacts health, please visit the DHEC website.