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Beat the heat by keeping your cool

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We had a few hot days earlier this summer but nothing compared to the intensity of the heat and the humidity the past few days, which is expected to stick around until at least the end of this week, but, of course, always subject to change.

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These above 90, high humidity, temperatures can be dangerous to everyone with some individuals even at greater risk, especially infants and children under the age of four, people over 65, those who are overweight and those who have health conditions like heart disease or high blood pressure or who take medications for depression, insomnia or poor circulation.

Because of these extremely high temperatures across the entire state, North Dakota Health Department officials are urging everyone to take special precautions to protect their health and to prevent heat stroke and heat-related illnesses by adhering to some standard practices.

In all this, 'hydrate' is the key word. Those who exert themselves during work or exercise need to make sure they don't become dehydrated. To insure that doesn't happen, remember to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, regardless of your activity level. Don't wait until you are thirsty to drink. Be sure to take in two to four glasses of cool liquid every hour if you're doing heavy exercise in a hot environment. Also, avoid liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar, as they can cause you to lose more body fluid.

Protecting yourself is also crucially important. People at high risk for heat-related illnesses should stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment. If you don't have air conditioning, visit a shopping mall or public library - even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Electric fans will not prevent heat-related illness when temps are in the 90s or higher.

If you must be outside, rest often in the shade to give your body a chance to cool down. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for added protection. Apply a sunscreen of 15 SPF or higher 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply according to package directions.

All of these precautionary measures will go a long way in preventing a life threatening heat stroke, which occurs when a person can no longer regulate their body temperature. In heat stroke, the body's temperature rises rapidly, and the body stops sweating and can't cool down. Warning signs vary but can include: an extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees F, orally); red, hot and dry skin (no sweating); rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness.

If you see signs of any of these symptoms, call for medical assistance immediately and begin cooling the victim rapidly, using whatever method you can, sponging with cool water, placing in cool shower or a tub of cool water, or spraying with a garden hose.

More information is available by calling the North Dakota Department of Health at 701-328-2372 or visiting their Web site home page at www.ndhealth.gov.

khuber@westfargopioneer.com

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