Health Department warns of heat-related illnesses as temps spike

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The New Mexico Department of Health and Children’s Youth and Families Department advise residents to take extra precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Temperatures over the next several days are expected to top 100 degrees in many areas of the state.

“It’s important to remember the dangers that come with severe heat,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary, Retta Ward, MPH. “It doesn’t have to reach 100 degrees to make you sick. You can become ill from the extreme heat if your body can't compensate for it and properly cool you off.”

Tuesday in Albuquerque, CYFD reported a 7 month-old was hospitalized after being left in a vehicle for 1 ½ hours.  New Mexico reported one child death in the last three years from being left in a car.

“Knowingly or negligently putting a child in a situation in which the child's health or safety could be at risk can be considered child abuse,” said CYFD Cabinet Secretary Yolanda Deines.  “There should never be a reason to leave a child alone in a hot vehicle or alone in a vehicle period.”

People at highest risk are the elderly, the very young, and people with existing chronic diseases such as heart disease, and people without access to air conditioning.   But even young and healthy people can get sick from the heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather.

The Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises you to take these steps to prevent heat-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths during hot weather:

·         Stay cool indoors; do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device.

·         Drink more water than usual

·         Avoid alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar

·         Replace salt and minerals.

·         Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.

·         Schedule outdoor activities carefully.

·         Pace yourself.

·         Monitor people at high risk.

·         Do not leave pets or children in cars.

Studies show the practice of leaving a vehicle window partially open, or “cracked,” has little effect on decreasing temperature inside. Children or animals can be seriously injured or die as temperatures rise within just 10 to 30 minutes of being left alone in a car.

Additionally, a recent Department of Health report indicates that in the southern part of the state where high temperatures are common in the summer, there is an increased risk of visits to the emergency room for heat-related illness.   This suggests that residents may not be fully aware of the high risk of heat stress, especially in June and July.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and happens when the body loses its ability to sweat. Dehydration and over exposure to the sun can cause heat stroke. The main sign of heat stroke is an elevated body temperature greater than 104 degrees and changes in mental status ranging from personality changes to confusion.

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Its main signs include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, as well as feeling tired, weak and/or dizzy.

If you suspect someone is suffering heat stroke or heat exhaustion, move them out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned space, cool the person by covering him or her with damp sheets or by spraying with cool water, direct air onto the person with a fan or newspaper, have the person drink cool water if he or she is able and dial 911 immediately.