Summer means outdoor fun in Oklahoma, but with temperatures around or past the 100-degree mark, the probability of suffering a heat related illness is on the rise.
People can quickly suffer heat exhaustion or even heat stoke when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool.
Did you know heat is the number one weather related killer in the United States, more than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined, according to the National Weather Service?
The Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported 33 heat-related deaths in Oklahoma from May to September in 2011. In addition, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) covered 4,950 heat-related medical claims in 2011.
“Many people only pay attention to the daily temperature, but that is not the best indicator of heat danger,” said Dr. Paula Root, BCBSOK medical director. “The heat index more accurately measures risk because it takes into consideration other key factors such as humidity, wind and the number of days with excessive temperatures.”
Individuals at highest risk for heat-related illnesses are those with low blood pressure or diabetes as well as the elderly, youth, obese or anyone with a blood or heart condition.
Heat exhaustion can be characterized by heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness and a fast heartbeat. BCBSOK offers the following tips for those who may be victim to heat exhaustion:
* Get out of the heat quickly.
* Rest in an air-conditioned building. If you can't get inside, find a cool, shady place.
* Drink plenty of water or other fluids – even if you are not thirsty. Do NOT drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks.
* Take a cool shower or bath, or put cool water on your skin. If you do not feel better within 30 minutes, call your doctor. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can progress to heatstroke.
In addition to heat exhaustion from outdoor activities, BCBSOK also warns parents about leaving children in parked cars. Even with a window open, the air temperature inside a car can rise by 7 degrees in five minutes during the summer months.
That means that in 90-degree heat, it only takes 10 minutes for the inside of a car to reach the level of an “excessive heat advisory” on the National Weather Service scale.
More summer safety tips, including staying healthy and hydrated and the importance of using sunscreen, can be found at bcbsok.com/health/preventive_care/summer_safety.html.