Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Heat, Humidity Prompt Health Alert

High temperatures are forecast to remain in the low to mid 90's through Thursday in the Pittsburgh area and that has led the Allegheny County Health Department to issue a health alert.
Department Director Dr. Bruce Dixon says extreme heat and humidity forecast for this week can pose serious problems for the elderly, infants and children up to the age of four, the overweight, people who work or exercise outdoors, and people with heart or respiratory problems.
Dixon says heat-related illness occurs when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. The body normally cools itself by sweating, but sometimes this cooling mechanism breaks down and the body temperature rises rapidly, triggering heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat. Warning signs include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting. Dixon says seek medical attention immediately, if the symptoms are severe or if the person has heart problems or high blood pressure. Otherwise, help the victim cool off, and seek medical attention if the symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour.
Dixon says heat stroke is a more serious and potentially life-threatening condition and occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature and the sweating mechanism fails. Warning signs may include a body temperature above 103F; red, hot and dry skin, due to no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea, confusion; and unconsciousness. Death or permanent disability may result without emergency treatment. Dixon says cool the victim rapidly by any means available until paramedics arrive.

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