Once again, the heat is on. I’ve asked Hansel Ashby, MD, FACEP and Eric Elliot, MD, FACEP of Idaho Emergency Physicians to offer some healthy tips to keep in mind when temperatures rise and fireworks pop. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.
We have had recent record high temperatures across the Northwest. The hot weather is a blast for many outdoors activities, but it also carries some dangers to watch for. In fact, heat emergencies have been the most frequent cause of environmentally related deaths in U.S. during the past decade.
It’s helpful to know some of the risk factors for heat-related illnesses. For example, those at highest risk include older adults, children younger than four, those with limited mobility, chronic illness or those who take medications. Other risk factors include vigorous exercise, dehydration, obesity and hyperthyroidism.
Heat edema ― Mild swelling of the feet, ankles and hands.
Prevention/Recovery: In response, you can move to a cooler spot and elevate the extremities.
Prickly heat (“heat rash”) ― Rash over tightly clothed areas of the body.
Prevention/Recovery: Preventative measures include wearing clean, light and loose-fitting clothing. If you’ve already contracted it, try some chlorhexidine cream or lotion.
Heat cramps ― Involuntary muscle contractions of the calves, thighs and shoulders ― usually occurring during rest after several hours of vigorous activity.
Prevention/Recovery: The affected muscles often respond to passive stretching. Sports drinks can help rehydrate and help prevent additional cramping. In some cases, a saline IV may be necessary.
Heat exhaustion ― Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, weakness and dizziness
Prevention/Recovery: Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, so prompt treatment is imperative. Stop exercising immediately and move to a cooler area. Remove excess clothing and drink salt-containing liquids such as sports drinks. If there is no improvement with these actions, emergency care is advised.
Heat stroke ― When a person’s temperature is above 104 degrees, heat stroke has set in. This can be marked by irritability, confusion, bizarre behavior, combativeness, hallucinations, seizures and even coma.
Prevention/Recovery: Professional emergency treatment is imperative.
Firework injuries are common. In fact, consumer fireworks cause an estimated 17,800 reported fires and 9,600 emergency room-treated injuries per year, according to a report by the National Fire Protection Association. One quarter of those injured are under age 15.
Of course, fireworks are a traditional and important part of our nation’s celebration of independence and they can be safely enjoyed if a few basic precautions are taken.
Children and Fireworks
- Do not allow children to play with fireworks or to be unsupervised near an open flame.
- Parents may not realize that young children often suffer injuries from sparklers, which burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees. Only people over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.
- Always have an adult closely supervise activities if older children are allowed to handle fireworks.
- No part of your body should be over a firework while lighting it.
- If a firework doesn’t work after lighting it, wait 15-20 minutes and then douse it with water. DO NOT try to light it again, as making this mistake is one of the most common causes of injury.
- Alcohol and fireworks do not mix.
- Light fireworks only outdoors, away from buildings and flammable materials.
- Have a garden hose or a container of water nearby when having a home fireworks display.
- If it’s too windy to safely ignite, don’t use sparklers as the embers can drift and easily start a fire in the hot, dry conditions we currently have in the Treasure Valley.