Power outage and the heat: When the power goes out in the summer, heat can become a problem. Most heat disorders are caused by dehydration. Our bodies lose water from sweating, and the water lost must be constantly replaced. The young, the old, those with chronic illness and people who are homebound are most at-risk for heat-related injury.
People at work in hot weather can face a risk when the outage results in the loss of air conditioning in their office, plant, or other place of employment.
All heat-related deaths are preventable. When faced with prolonged high temperatures, it is recommended that that people take the precautions below to prevent heat-related illness and injury:
- Check often on those at most risk.
- Drink at least one gallon of water each day.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine; these can dehydrate your body.
- Replace salts and minerals by drinking sports drinks
- Wear lightweight clothing, light-colored clothing and sunscreen if you go outside.
- Take frequent cool showers or baths.
If you feel dizzy, weak, or overheated, go to a cool place. Sit or lie down, drink water, and wash your face with cool water. If you don't feel better soon, get help from an emergency medical provider.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body can't control its own temperature. During a heat stroke the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body cannot cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 F (41 C) or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Warning signs of heat stroke vary but can include the following:
- Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness, nausea, confusion, or unconsciousness
- An extremely high body temperature (above 103 F (39 C))
If you suspect someone has heat stroke, follow these instructions:
- Get the person to a shady area.
- Cool the person rapidly, using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse them in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray them with cool water from a garden hose; sponge them with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap them in a cool, wet sheet and fan them vigorously.
- Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102 F(38 C).
- If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions. Do not give the person alcohol to drink. Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
See also: Heat-related illness.