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– Climate & Health Effects –

– Climate & Health Effects –

Extreme heat events, climate change and hydration affect your health! It’s important to stay hydrated, especially in warmer months. Northern Wisconsin isn’t known to be considered a “warm weather” region, but we still have heatrelated illnesses and fatalities. Data trends are indicative that Wisconsin is becoming warmer, and extreme heat events will become more prevalent and last longer.

It’s critical for everyone to prepare to avoid heat-related illnesses and fatalities, but the elderly, children under five years old, outdoor workers, athletes, the socially isolated, those with chronic health conditions and those of low-economic status, are most susceptible.

Types of heat-related illnesses include heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat rash is caused by excessive sweating that blocks the sweat ducts, which in turn, causes the skin to develop red bumps and blisters with itching. If heat rash occurs, it’s important to remove the person from the heat and to avoid sun exposure. If the rash does not improve, a healthcare provider should be contacted.

Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs, caused by dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Heat cramps can be treated by going to a cooler location, removing excess clothing and drinking a cool sports drink. If cramps last longer than an hour, a healthcare provider should be contacted.

Heat exhaustion is caused by dehydration and is characterized by extreme sweating, weakness, rapid breathing, nausea/vomiting, cramps and a fever up to 104°F. It’s important to find shade or an air-conditioned location, and lie down. Other actions include taking a cool bath, placing ice packs along the back of the neck and/or under the arm pits, and drinking cool sports drinks.

If symptoms get worse or don’t resolve, it’s important to seek medical attention, as the person may have a heat stroke if their body isn’t able to regulate their body temperature. A heat stroke is a life-threatening condition with symptoms of a high fever (above 104°F), confusion/loss of consciousness, fast pulse, dry, red and hot skin, headache, dizziness and nausea/vomiting.

Symptoms of a heat stroke are an emergency and 911 should be called to get the person to the hospital immediately.

Preparedness is key when it comes to heat-related illnesses. Since many are caused by dehydration, one of the most important ways to prevent such illnesses is to drink water and plenty of fluids throughout the day, even before feeling thirsty. Other methods of prevention include: never staying in a parked car, keeping living spaces cool, slowing down physical activity, wearing light-weight/light-colored clothing and taking a cool shower/bath.

Using prevention strategies and identifying signs of heatrelated illness to act quickly, is critically important to prevent heat-related illnesses and fatalities.