With summer comes hotter temperatures that can reach nearly 100 degrees in Montana. Higher temperatures during the day mean more people can potentially be exposed to heat-related illnesses.
The National Safety Council says heat exhaustion and stroke escalate quickly, leading to incoherentness, organ damage, and possibly even death. People most at risk of heat-related illnesses are those working outside, such as construction workers. Young children and babies also have higher exposure to heat-related illnesses as well as overweight people and those with an underlying medical condition. Individuals 65 and older also have a higher risk of heat-related illness.
It is essential to know the signs of heat stroke and exhaustion to help victims when it happens to them. Signs of heat exhaustion include rapid heart rate, headaches, fainting, or dizziness. Other symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, vomiting, or muscle cramps, especially for those working outside. Victims must be treated quickly: move them to a shaded area or into an area with air conditioning. Use cool, wet towels on the victim or put them in a cold shower.
Heat stroke symptoms include rapid breathing, irrational behavior, and a body temperature of at least 103 degrees. Confusion, headaches, and dizziness are also symptoms of heat stroke, as well as unresponsiveness or convulsions. Take action immediately by calling 911 and cooling the victim fast. Put cold water on their neck and place them in a shaded, cool area. Cover as much of the body as possible with cool, wet towels. Monitor their breathing and perform CPR if necessary. It is also a good idea to keep track of their body temp until it drops to 101 degrees. If someone is showing any signs of heat stroke, do not force them to drink liquids or let them use pain medications and salt tablets. Do not use rubbing alcohol on the victim.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention offer several tips to avoid heat-related illnesses. Drink fluids like water, avoid alcohol and avoid spending time outside during the hottest time of the day between 11 am and 3 pm. Sunburns affect the body’s natural ability to cool, so always wear sunscreen when outside. It is also a good idea to wear light, loose clothing, and a hat when outside.
One of the best ways to avoid exposure to a heat-related illness is limiting time outside on extremely hot days. Check in on elderly neighbors or relatives who are home-bound to ensure they stay cool during the summer.