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Summer heat, how to better protect yourself

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Hydrate, hydrate and then hydrate some more. At an altitude of 6,187 feet above sea level, the conditions at Peterson AFB puts additional stress on the body during physical exertion. Less humidity and exposure to intense ultraviolet rays means extra care is needed when training and exercising. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Golembesky)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Hydrate, hydrate and then hydrate some more. At an altitude of 6,187 feet above sea level, the conditions at Peterson AFB puts additional stress on the body during physical exertion. Less humidity and exposure to intense ultraviolet rays means extra care is needed when training and exercising. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Golembesky)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The summer heat comes as a welcome change to the Colorado winter, but it also brings the risk of heat stroke when exercising or performing strenuous training outdoors, due in part to the higher elevation in Colorado.

At an altitude of 6,187 feet above sea level, the conditions at Peterson AFB put additional stress on the body during physical exertion. Less humidity and exposure to intense ultraviolet rays means that we all need to be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke and how to treat it.

What are some symptoms of heat stroke? Fainting may be the first sign, throbbing headache, dizziness and light-headedness, lack of sweating despite the heat, hot and dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea or vomiting, shallow breathing and behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation or staggering.

Heat stroke can kill or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Although heat stroke mainly affects people over age 50, it also takes a toll on healthy, young athletes.

"Heat stroke often occurs as a progression from milder heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting) and heat exhaustion. But it can strike even if you have no previous signs of heat injury," said Tech. Sgt. Wade Woods, 21st Space Wing Safety Office ground safety noncommissioned officer in charge. "Heat stroke can be fatal in many cases because it happens so quickly -- there is not much time to react."

So what should you do? If you suspect that someone is suffering from heat stroke, immediately call 911 or transport the person to a hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be deadly; fatalities can occur within an hour or less. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, initiate first aid. Move the person to an air-conditioned environment or at least, a cool, shady area, and remove any unnecessary clothing.

In addition, try to get the person to drink water if they are conscious, soak the person's entire body in cool water, sponge cool water onto their skin or apply ice packs to the head, neck, armpits and groin.

Heat strokes are not limited to just the elderly and athletes. For children and pets, one way for heat stroke to happen suddenly and unexpectedly involves a hot car or a hot room in a house. Cars are especially dangerous. A vehicle left in the sun on a hot summer day can reach temperatures over 110 degrees Fahrenheit in 15 minutes. This temperature is quickly fatal.

It is never safe to leave a child or pet in a parked car for any length of time.

For more information about summer safety, go to http://www.cdc.gov/features/summertimesafety/.

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