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Heat Stroke Or Heat Exhaustion: How To Tell The Difference

CENTRAL SIERRA — The forecast for extremely high temperatures has raised concern for the health and safety of Central California residents.

The Fresno County Department of Public Health (FCDPH) urges residents to take precautions to avoid heat illness as well as to know the signs that indicate the need to seek medical care.

Persons who work outdoors should be aware of regulations for employers to provide shade and water. Individuals with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma and other lung conditions can be especially sensitive to extreme temperatures, although everyone should take extra measures to protect themselves to prevent heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and possible death.

The body’s normal response to heat can be adversely affected by strenuous activity, age, as well as obesity and other chronic health conditions. In addition, some prescription medicines actually impair the body’s ability to control its temperature and / or may inhibit perspiration. When air quality worsens during hot weather, those with chronic respiratory disease are particularly impacted.

To protect yourself and your loved ones:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages such as coffee, soda and tea.
  • Wear lightweight, light colored, and loose fitting clothing and apply adequate sunscreen.
  • Check twice a day on family members, friends, neighbors, and others. Call or visit to make sure that they are comfortable and able to manage. Don’t wait for them to call for help.
  • Stay indoors and minimize physical activity.
  • Visit a cooling center or other air-conditioned locations.
  • Pets also need protection from the heat. Provide plenty of fresh drinking water and shade.
  • Never leave a child or pet in a parked car.
  • Remember: Water, rest, and shade… the work can’t get done without them!

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F, orally);
  • Unconsciousness;
  • Dizziness, nausea, and confusion;
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating);
  • Rapid, strong pulse; and
  • Throbbing headache.

Warning signs of heat exhaustion vary but may include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Paleness, tiredness, dizziness.

If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency. Have someone call for immediate medical assistance while you begin cooling the victim.

Get the victim to a shady area. Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can. For example, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place in a cool shower; spray with cool water from a garden hose; sponge with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.

(Source: Fresno County Department of Public Health)

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