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Heat-related deaths can be prevented

With the mercury hovering near 100 in the Washington area, residents and visitors search for ways to chill out.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some extreme conditions, sweating just isn't enough. When the humidity is high, for example, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly.

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In such cases, a person's body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

Infants, children and people age 65 and over are more prone to heat stress than others. Factors that increase risk include heart disease and other chronic medical conditions, obesity, fever, dehydration, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn and prescription drug or alcohol use.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include the following:

-- body temperature above 103 degrees

-- red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)

-- rapid, strong pulse

-- throbbing headache

-- dizziness

-- nausea

-- confusion

-- loss of consciousness

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