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Science News: Surviving summer: Tips for avoiding heat-related illness

– K.J., Editor

The summer season has typically been anticipated every year due to the bright sunshine, outdoor activities and water sports, and the fun and lively atmosphere it brings. However, the seasonal weather associated with summer can be worrisome to some, since the skyrocketing temperatures of the past few decades have increasingly caused illnesses such as cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death.

How do extreme temperatures affect the body? According to the science magazine Scientific American, damage to the central nervous system, brain and other vital organs, as well as exacerbation of existing conditions such as heart disease and hypertension can occur. Naturally, this means that infants, young children, aged individuals, and those with chronic medical conditions are more likely to be affected by extreme heat exposure. However, an often overlooked group of people at risk of heat-related illness are outdoor workers.

Outdoor workers include delivery personnel, farmers, construction workers, arborists, and sanitation workers. Since working indoors is not a viable option for these jobs, heat exposure is always a risk in the summer months. To help these individuals remain healthy and perform their tasks to the best of their abilities, everyone should be aware of the symptoms of heat exposure. What are the signs of heat-related illness that you should look for and what should you do?

Mild symptoms including headache, dizziness and fainting should be treated with rehydration and rest in a cool environment. Moderate to severe symptoms such as dry skin, confusion, elevated body temperature (above 39.4 °C) and unconsciousness are indicative of heat stroke, and individuals showing these symptoms require immediate medical attention. Furthermore, since extreme heat exposure effects brain function, an individual may not be aware of their bodily state or know what to do to get better. Thus, render aid if necessary, even if just a cold bottle of water and a handheld fan to cool down.

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