Ignoring desert heat can result in heat exhaustion and stroke

It was 88 degrees in Kingman at 4:23 p.m.

Friday, and temperature gauges will continue to rise every day throughout the Southwest.

"You learn to adapt to the heat," said Jerry Hill, Mohave County Public Works Department emergency management coordinator.

In the 1960s Hill, a Kingman resident, worked as a surveyor in Lake Havasu City, where temperatures often reach 120 and above.

"I had to watch myself," he said.

"I drank lots of liquids, but not soda pop.

I had to wear gloves because I couldn't touch anything hot."

Hill, who has worked for the Mohave County Public Works Department since 1970, said crews start work early in the morning during the summer and knock off work before the more intense afternoon heat hits.

"You have to watch yourself and be aware of the signs of heat stroke.

But you can adapt yourself to the heat the way the Plainsmen and Indians did," he said.

Crew workers are provided ice water and are told what to do in case of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

"You have to be aware of the symptoms.

If anyone experiences symptoms of heat stroke they are immediately moved into the shade or into the truck," Hill said.

Michelle Hall, a registered nurse and education coordinator at Kingman Regional Medical Center, said heat exhaustion occurs before a more serious heat stroke.

"Signs of heat exhaustion are a warning you need to cool off quickly.

Be aware of that happening, and watch it in your kids," she said.

"They really have to be drinking fluids before they get thirsty."

She added that it is too dry in Arizona not to carry water during the day to sip on.

Heat exhaustion is caused by extreme body heat and dehydration, raising body temperature to more than 102 degrees.

Symptoms can include paleness, nausea, extreme fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting and cool, clammy skin.

It is a serious illness and should be carefully monitored, according to Hall.

Cool, shady environments, liquids, cool rags placed on various areas of the body and replacement of electrolytes found in some sports drinks are used to treat this condition.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency, and anyone exhibiting symptoms should be rushed to the nearest hospital or clinic.

The very young and old are susceptible to heat stroke.

Symptoms include hot, dry skin, headache, dizziness, disorientation or confusion, sluggishness or fatigue, seizure, loss of consciousness, rapid heartbeat and hallucinations.

Chris Simpson works as a firefighter and emergency medical technician at Pinion Pines Station 1 Fire Department.

"To prevent heat stroke or heat exhaustion during the summer keep yourself hydrated with plenty of liquids," Simpson said.

"Water can be mixed 50/50 with Gatorade to quench thirst and replace the electrolytes the body loses."

"Keep yourself cool.

Don't do strenuous exercise for too long when temperatures are high," he said.

"Do yard work from 6 to 9 a.m.

in the morning or 6 p.m.

until dark in the evening, when it is cooler.

Noon to 4 p.m.

is the hottest time of the day."

Alternate between the sun and the shade, he said.

While working outdoors take breaks every 45 minutes.

Feeling dizzy, weak or nauseous is a sign that you have been in the sun too long.

"Stick to clothing that is breathable, like a light cotton or silk blend," he said.

"Tank tops allow shoulders and neck to get burnt; a long- or short-sleeve shirt offers more protection.

Always apply SPF 30 or higher sunscreen to areas not covered."

Heat exhaustion occurs when the person is perspiring and feeling ill because of the heat.

Heat stroke occurs when someone becomes so dehydrated they no longer perspire.

In either case the person should get out of the sun, take a cool shower or pour cool water on the face and head, and call 911, because the problem could be worse than what the person is feeling, Simpson said.

Intravenous fluids are often necessary to replace lost fluids or electrolytes, he added.