Health Department – How to Spot Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke
The Missoula City County Health Department reached out to KGVO News on Monday to share important information on how to stay safe and healthy during this week of extremely hot weather.
New Health Officer D’Shane Barnett said Missoula is just at the beginning stages of the heat wave.
“We are at a heat advisory, which is a step below a heat warning,” said Barnett. “So we're not at a place yet where we're putting in any kind of mitigation measures. What we're trying to do is get people to be as proactive as possible in preventing heat related illness.”
Barnett described some common sense actions to take if someone is struggling with the heat.
“There are steps we can take,” he said. “Drink plenty of water and reduce your exposure to the sun and the heat. And, and really one of the most important things we can do is check in on our friends and relatives. We do know that heat related illness is harder on the elderly and young children and in our animals, our pets. So, we should be making sure that we're keeping an eye on all of those within our community who are really the most vulnerable at the moment.”
Barnett then described the symptoms of heat exhaustion.
“For heat exhaustion, what you're going to be looking for is really heavy sweating,” he said. “I mean, obviously some people sweat more anyway, but what we're looking for is that really profuse heavy sweating. And then once you know skin starts to get really cold and pale and clammy, if the person that you're checking on, if their pulse is either really fast or you can't even really feel it because it's so weak. If they're reporting feeling nauseous or vomiting, those are those are all signs of heat exhaustion.”
Barnett said the next, more serious step is heatstroke, which requires immediate medical attention.
“Once your body does get too hot, what we see is heatstroke,” he said. “At that point they're going to start having a temperature of often well over 100 degrees just like you have a fever. So, it'll be 102 103 or higher, their skin is going to start getting really hot and red and damp and they're going to have a very fast pulse. Those are signs of heatstroke and that's when it's time to call 911. At that point, your body is in distress and you need professional medical help.”
If you see a child or pet left unattended in a vehicle during these conditions, try to locate the vehicle owner as quickly as possible. If you are not able to locate them, dial 911 and they can provide you with instructions for how to proceed. Do not directly confront vehicle owners if there is a threat to your safety.
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