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Heat stroke can sneak up and kill

Summer sun can be fun, but it also can be lethal

 Deadly heat facts:

Heat stroke kills more than 10% of its victims
Source: Mississippi State Univ.

U.S. heat-related deaths:
1995 - 1,021
1996 - 36
1997 - 81
Source: National Weather Service

Average annual heat-related deaths: 175 Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More died from heat-related causes in 1995 than from any other natural disaster in the U.S.
Source: National Weather Service

In the summer of 1980, a heat wave resulted in the deaths of 1,700 people in the U.S.
Source: CDC

In 1980, Dallas had 42 consecutive days of 100+ temperatures
Source: National Climatic Data Center


Learn to recognize warning signs

July 28, 1999
Web posted at: 10:40 PM EDT

In this story:

Symptoms of heat exhaustion

Heat stroke in just 10 minutes


From Health Correspondent Holly Firfer

(CNN) -- As the nation continues to swelter in the unrelenting summer sun, emergency rooms are filling with people suffering from two dangerous conditions: Heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Doctors fear that the death toll, now in the dozens, will continue to rise with the temperatures if people don't learn to recognize the danger signs and find some relief from the heat.

"A lot of people have a lot of potential for ignoring the early signs -- thirst or excessive surface temperature -- or they're doing something to take their minds off of it," said Dr. Crawford Barnett.

The body cools itself off by sweating, but in extreme heat such as the Eastern third of the country has been experiencing, sweating isn't enough to protect your body. Getting plenty of liquids and spending limited time outside are crucial to your well-being.

Heat exhaustion is the early sign that the body needs to rehydrate.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion

"Some folks get nauseous, have body cramping -- they will get lightheaded and get a sense of fatigue," said Dr. William Jackson Jr. of the American College of Emergency Room Physicians.

Surprisingly, if you checked with a thermometer, the body temperature could be near normal.

Other symptoms include: Paleness, headaches, cool and moist skin, fast and shallow breathing, and a fast -- but weak -- pulse.

"The body says, we're getting low on fluid, we need fluid for circulation, the brain, the kidneys and other critical areas. Therefore we are going to shut down the sweating," said Barnett.

"So you lose that area of being able to decrease ... get rid of heat and therefore begin to accumulate heat even faster," the doctor warned.

If the symptoms are recognized, the victim usually recovers by resting and drinking fluids.

Heat stroke in just 10 minutes

If the symptoms are ignored, the victim can develop potentially lethal heat stroke.

The warning signs include an extremely high body temperature -- 103 degrees or higher -- hot and dry skin; a rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea or vomiting; confusion and unconsciousness.

Heat stroke can happen within 10 to 15 minutes of the first symptoms.

If victims don't get emergency treatment immediately to bring down their body temperature, they can suffer permanent damage to their internal organs or even die.

Doctors urge everyone in hot climates to drink water -- even when you are not thirsty -- and to avoid alcohol and caffeine.

And, keep in mind, children and the elderly are at most risk to succumbing to the heat.

Heat, humidity a double whammy for vulnerable
July 27, 1999
Older people are more vulnerable to heat
July 26, 1999
Heatstroke - Deadly threat in hot weather
July 20, 1999
Northeast swelters in a record-setting July
July 14, 1999
Heat wave eases; New York, other cities plagued by blackouts
July 7, 1999
Sizzling Northeast to get a few degrees of relief
July 6, 1999
Triple whammy for farmers: Drought, heat, low prices
July 5, 1999

National Weather Service
  • Heat Wave and Heat Index Page
American Red Cross
  • Disaster Services - Heat Waves
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