Summer has arrived and in the nick of time temperatures are finally starting to get closer to a normal temperature. It’s a time when many people are out enjoying recreational activities; others are working long hours to get projects in, both on the job and at home. Summer weather is a welcome arrival in Maine. But high heat can also be dangerous to a wide swath of people – the very young, the old, people with some chronic diseases or on some medications, pregnant women, and more.

During hot weather, people need to be able to recognize and treat heat-related illnesses. The Maine Center for Disease Control offers the following suggestion to help:

Heat stroke is the most dangerous heat illness. Warning signs include hot, dry, red skin, no sweating, rapid pulse, body temperature above 105 degrees, headache, loss of alertness, confusion, rapid and shallow breathing, and unconsciousness or coma. If you see someone with these signs, call 911 immediately and move the person to a cool or shady place, loosen their clothes, and cool them rapidly with ice, fans, cool water, or wet cloths.

Heat exhaustion is less severe than heat stroke, and usually occurs when people over-exert themselves in high heat and humidity. Symptoms include heavy sweating, fainting, vomiting, cold, pale, and clammy skin, dizziness, headache, nausea and weakness. Move the person to a cool place, have them drink fluids and rest, loosen their clothes, and cool them off with water or wet cloths. Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke. If symptoms worsen or do not improve, get medical help.

Other heat-related conditions include: heat cramps, dehydration, sunburn and heat rash.

To prevent heat illness, stay cool with air conditioning if possible. If you don’t have air conditioning in your home, close windows, blinds, or curtains on the sunny side of your house, and open them on the shady side. Use cool water – take a cool shower or bath. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Stay out of the sun as much as possible. Never leave anyone, especially children, pets, or those with special needs in a parked car – even briefly. Temperatures in the car can become dangerous within a few minutes. And perhaps most important, drink more fluids regardless of your activity level. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks, since these can cause you to become dehydrated. You also should take regular breaks from physical activity – at least a few minutes every hour – and avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day.

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