Heat Claims First Victims Of The Year

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The early return to summer-like weather has contributed to the first 2008 heat-related deaths in Maryland, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) has announced. A 79-year-old Anne Arundel County man and a 65- year- old Prince George's man died from heart disease complicated by hyperthermia.

DHMH cautions Maryland citizens that heatstroke and heat exhaustion can develop from the hot and humid conditions typically associated with Maryland summers.

"Everyone should be careful in hot weather, especially elderly people, young children, and those who are overweight," said DHMH Secretary John M. Colmers. "While chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory illnesses increase an individual's risk, there are things people can do to protect themselves."

Heatstroke is a serious illness characterized by a body temperature greater then 105 degrees. Symptoms may include dry red skin, convulsions, disorientation, delirium and coma. Onset of heatstroke can be rapid: a person can go from feeling apparently well to a seriously ill condition within minutes. Treatment of heatstroke involves the rapid lowering of body temperature, using a cool bath or wet towels. A heatstroke victim should be kept in a cool area; emergency medical care should be obtained by dialing 911.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heatstroke that may develop due to a combination of several days with high temperatures and dehydration in an individual. Signs of heat exhaustion include extreme weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, or headache. Victims may also vomit or faint. Heat exhaustion is treated with plenty of liquids and rest in a cool, shaded area. Those on a low-sodium diet or with other health problems should contact a doctor.

Hot weather tips:

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* Drink plenty of fluids such as water and fruit juices to prevent dehydration -- be aware that alcohol can impair the body's sweat mechanism, as can fairly common medications such as antihistamines and diuretics;

* Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes;

* Avoid direct sunlight by staying in the shade or by wearing sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses;

* When possible, stay in air-conditioned areas. If your home is not air-conditioned, consider a visit to a shopping mall or public library. Contact your local health department to see if there are any heat shelters in your area;

* NEVER leave pets or young children in a car, even with the windows cracked;

* Check on elderly relatives or neighbors at least daily; and

* Take it easy when outdoors. Athletes and those who work outdoors should, if possible, take short breaks when feeling fatigued. Schedule physical activity during the morning or evening when it is cooler.

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