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Even moderate heat can spell danger if precautions aren't taken

It doesn't take a "killer heat wave" to spell danger. Excessive hot weather can cause heat stress. Heat stress is the burden that hot weather places on your body, especially your heart. If the burden is too great, heat can make you very sick or even be fatal. Most of its victims are the elderly.

Heat stress can cause many medical problems including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heart failure and stroke. Your chances of getting sick in hot weather are increased by: being elderly, heart disease, hypertension, problems with circulation, diabetes, obesity, diarrhea, drinking alcoholic beverages, and some other diseases. Many medications can make you even more vulnerable to the heat. Check with your doctor when taking prescription medication.

Hot weather makes most people feel uncomfortable, and can cause a lack of energy or slight loss of appetite. These are mild signs of heat stress. Move to a cooler environment and drink plenty of water. Unless the symptoms last a long time, there is no need to be alarmed. Heat stress can also cause more serious physical and mental changes. These changes are important signals that your body is in danger; get emergency medical assistance. Pay attention to the early warning signs of heat illness because heat stress can be fatal.

Keep cool. Spend as much time as you can in cooler surroundings, such as a cool room at home, an air conditioned shopping mall, senior center or public library. Air conditioning can provide lifesaving relief from heat stress.

Fans can draw cool air into your home at night or help to provide good indoor air circulation during the day. Air movement reduces heat stress By helping to remove extra body heat. When it is extremely hot, a fan may cause you to gain body heat By blowing very hot air over your body. Cool baths or shows, with water temperature around 75 degrees provide amazing relief from the heat. Cool water removes extra body heat 25 times faster than cool air.

Lightweight, light colored, loose fitting, cotton clothing is more comfortable in hot weather. Wear a hat or use an umbrella to protect your head and neck when outdoors.

In hot weather, your body needs more fluid than thirst will indicate. By the time you feel thirsty; you may already be dangerously low on water. Drink water often; eight to 12 cups daily is recommended. Water is a nutrient and is part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Slow down. Take it easy, especially at the start of hot weather when your body is less prepared for the heat. Physical activity produces body heat. Avoid hot foods and heavy meals. They add heat to your body. Try using your range less. Cook your meals during the cooler part of the day. Avoid alcohol. It interferes with your body's fight against heat stress and can put a strain on your heart.

Temperatures above 90 degrees can be very dangerous, especially when the humidity is also high. So, take precautions to stay cool and avoid heat stress.

Web posted on Thursday, June 21, 2007

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