The first heat-related death in Idaho this year has been reported to the Division of Public Health. An Idaho resident between 40 and 60 years of age died of heatstroke when hiking a strenuous route in southern Idaho in the past week. Temperatures were in the 90s and shade was lacking.
Anyone can get heat-related illness, but those at greater risk are young children, older adults, and people who are overweight or have underlying health conditions or take certain medications that reduce the body’s ability to stay cool.
Be aware of symptoms of heat-related illness and how to treat them
The most serious type of heat-related illness is heatstroke, a medical emergency. Symptoms may include high body temperature, hot red skin, confusion or seizures, nausea, dizziness, and fainting. If someone experiences these symptoms and cannot quickly get medical care, call 911 right away. Move to a cooler place and use cool wet cloths or ice on the head, neck, armpits, and groin, or soak clothing with cool water or give a cool bath to help lower body temperature. Speed cooling with a fan. Do not give a person with heatstroke anything to drink, as they may not be able to swallow correctly and could inhale the fluid instead of swallowing it.
Heat exhaustion may occur before symptoms of heatstroke. Symptoms may include tiredness, weakness, irritability, thirst, headache, nausea, muscle cramps, and cold, clammy skin. Someone experiencing these symptoms should move to a cool place, loosen clothes, use cool cloths or a cool bath to help lower body temperature, and sip cool water frequently. Get medical help right away if vomiting starts, symptoms get worse, or symptoms last longer than an hour.
The best ways to prevent heat-related illness include staying cool and well-hydrated. To do this you can:
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing
- Limit outdoor activity to the coolest hours of morning and evening
- Stop activity and get into shade if your heart is pounding and you are gasping for breath
- Avoid hot and heavy meals
- Drink plenty of fluids -- at least one cup of water every 15–20 minutes for moderate activities lasting less than two hours. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink.
- Avoid alcohol and drinks with high caffeine or sugar
- Replace salt and minerals with a low-sugar sports drink. Talk to your doctor first if you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply sunscreen if you will be outside longer than two hours.
Stay informed about temperature forecasts and extreme heat alerts by checking your local news or www.weather.gov. Monitor your companions when recreating or working in the heat.
- CDC’s Natural Disasters and Severe Weather — Extreme Heat: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html
- National Park Service: Beat the Heat: Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses:
- U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Recreational Boating Safety Directorates — Hyperthermia: A Clear and Present Danger
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.