National news today took me by surprise a little bit. Recently, former Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber passed away. The cynic in me figured it was the usual athlete death: DUI, overdose or something nefarious.

But I was wrong.

Barber died from heat stroke. The former superstar was known for his intense workouts and ability to keep going in the face of adverse conditions. As it turns out, he died for that very reason. When they found him, the thermostat in his apartment was turned up to 91 DEGREES! He also had the hot water tap in his bathtub turned all the way up. He'd created an intense sauna in his living quarters.

It's a sad story for sure, but maybe a little good can come from it.

We need to understand that heat can and will kill us. According to the National Weather Service, "Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year. Heat can be very taxing on the body."

The government-sponsored website goes on to outline some of the more serious illnesses that can result from heat exposure (check it out the heat related illnesses that can occur with even a short period of exposure).

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The most serious, of course, is heat stroke. It will kill grandma, It will kill grandkids. It will kill you if you don't take the proper precautions.

And once you cross that threshold from heat exhaustion to heat stroke, the time to "just cool down" is gone. It's time to act.

From the website:

"Heat Stroke

  • Symptoms: Throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, body temperature above 103°F, hot, red, dry or damp skin, rapid and strong pulse, fainting, loss of consciousness.
  • First Aid: Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Delay can be fatal. Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment. Reduce body temperature with cool cloths or bath. Use fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s. A fan can make you hotter at higher temperatures. Do NOT give fluids."

I was out in the garage last night, changing out a headlight on the KDXU car. Within five minutes, I was soaked to the bone in sweat. The repair didn't take long, and I was nowhere near heat stroke, but I can only imagine how bad it could have been if I was in the sun for two or three hours, or more.

Bottom line: if you have to be outside, take lots of breaks, drink lots of water and find shade whenever possible.

The life you save may be your own.

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