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Call to avoid heat-related illness over holiday weekend

Ambulance at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (file photograph)

St John Ambulance has called on the public to be careful to avoid heat-related illnesses over the holiday weekend.

A spokeswoman for the charity said that temperatures are expected to rise above 80F during Cup Match.

She said: “Recognising the signs and knowing how to treat heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke can be crucial to help people take care of themselves and others, as well as avoiding trips to the hospital during one of the island’s most celebrated holidays.”

Heat-related conditions occur when a person’s body is not able to compensate for the heat and properly cool itself.

“The body normally cools itself by sweating but when the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly which prevents the body from releasing heat as quickly,” the spokeswoman said.

“Young children and the elderly are particularly susceptible to high temperatures. Other risk factors include dehydration, obesity, heart disease, prescription drug use and alcohol use.

“The two most serious problems that can occur with extreme heat are heat exhaustion and heatstroke but knowing the signs and symptoms and what steps to take could be the difference between a life saved and a life lost in an emergency situation.”

Heat exhaustion can be caused by excessive sweating, which causes the body to lose salt and water. Without treatment, it can progress to heatstroke, which can damage the brain and other organs and even lead to death.

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea or vomiting, dizziness, profuse sweating, pale and clammy skin, feeling faint, loss of appetite, fatigue, a rapid, weak pulse and shallow breathing.

If someone is experiencing heat exhaustion, they should stop all activity and rest in a shady or air-conditioned area to cool off.

They should also remove any extra layers of clothing and place ice packs on their neck, armpits and groin and rehydrate with water or a sports drink with electrolytes, according to the St John Ambulance.

If symptoms don’t improve, call 911.

Heatstroke is a more serious condition, with symptoms including throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, red, hot and dry skin with a lack of sweating, a rapid, strong pulse and loss of consciousness.

Heatstroke can be deadly or cause permanent disability, so 911 should be called immediately.

The sufferer should also be moved to a cool area out of direct sunlight, excessive clothing should be removed and the person should be cooled with cold water, fans or ice packs to their neck, armpit or groin.

People with heatstroke should not be given anything to drink as many suffer altered consciousness which can make drinking dangerous.

St John Ambulance also suggested the public keep an eye out for dehydration, which can cause headaches, lightheadedness, dry mouth, eyes and lips, muscle cramps and passing small amounts of dark coloured urine.

Anyone suffering dehydration should drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic drinks, rest and cool down.

“Stay alert and know the signs – if untreated, someone with dehydration can develop heat exhaustion so it’s important to rehydrate as soon as possible, the spokeswoman said.

St John Ambulance volunteers will be out and about over the Cup Match holiday to help the public, but the charity asked the public to do their part by checking in on elderly relatives and neighbours and looking after themselves by staying out of the sun or covering up, wearing sunblock and drinking plenty of water.

For more first aid advice or information on St John Ambulance Bermuda including volunteering opportunities, first aid training and how to make a donation, visit www.sjabermuda.org.

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Published July 28, 2021 at 10:07 am (Updated July 28, 2021 at 10:07 am)

Call to avoid heat-related illness over holiday weekend

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