Friday, June 1, 2012

NEVER leave pets & children in hot cars

NEVER leave pets or children in a closed, parked vehicle; even for "a few minutes." Children, elderly adults, or disabled individuals left alone in a vehicle are at particular risk of succumbing to heat stroke. When the outside temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside the car can exceed 120 degrees in minutes, even with the windows slightly open. Pets are even more susceptible than humans to heat stroke in cars, as dogs, cats and many other animals cannot produce whole body sweat.

Heat stroke can be fatal and occurs when the body gives up on trying to cool down. As temperatures climb, your heart beats faster to whisk away internal body heat via the blood stream to keep your insides and your brain at 98 F. Your skin sweats (dogs pant) to aid the removal of heat from the blood just beneath the skin.

If you've ever had a fever with a cold (or raised an infant) then you'll know that our body has very little tolerance for internal temperate change. Heat stroke is defined as an internal temperature of 104 F; that just 5.4 degrees above normal. At that temperature the brain can become confused and internal organs can become damaged. The body will work very hard to keep you below that limit but it's a losing battle when the air itself is hotter than 104 or when exposed to heat for a long time and you run out of sweat (dehydrated) or the heart becomes exhausted and just flutters rapidly instead of rapid pumping. One sign of heat stroke is the LACK of sweat.

For heat stroke call 911 and get help. Shade and water will help with heat exhaustion but with heat stroke the body is in serious trouble. The Mayo Clinic says,

Heatstroke treatment centers on cooling your body to a normal temperature to prevent or reduce damage to your brain and vital organs. To do this, your doctor may take these steps:
  • Immerse you in cold water. Your doctor may put your body in a bath of cold water or ice water to quickly lower your temperature.
  • Use evaporation cooling techniques. Some doctors prefer to use evaporation instead of immersion to lower your body temperature. In this technique, cool water is misted on your skin while warm air fanned over your body causes the water to evaporate, cooling the skin.
  • Pack you with ice and cooling blankets. Another method is to wrap you in a special cooling blanket and apply ice packs to your groin, neck, back and armpits to lower your temperature.
  • Give you medications to stop your shivering. If any treatments to lower your body temperature make you shiver, your doctor may give you a muscle relaxant, such as a benzodiazepine. Shivering increases your body temperature, making treatment less effective.

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