Monday, July 1, 2013

Heat Wave Dangers

     Summer has finally arrived, which has brought people out of hibernation from those cool, damp, windy transitional months. Summer can make a big entrance, with cook outs, graduation parties, pool parties, and vacation plans. Of course, all of these activities sound enticing but it is important to remember summer can increase the likelihood of health risks.

     High temperatures can affect the health of a number of different age groups. Knowing how heat can affect us can help prevent heat fatalities.

Heat Stroke
     Heat stroke is when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature may rise to 106 degrees F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes.”

A few signs of heat stroke
  • Hot and dry skin 
  • Inability to sweat 
  • High body temperature (anywhere above 103 degrees F) 
  • Headache, nausea, speedy pulse 
  • Dizziness, nausea, and confusion 

     Neil Roy, M.D., of the emergency department at Meritus Medical Center said, “The key sign of heat stroke is a change in mental status. Anyone that is hot and confused needs to be seen immediately.”

Heat Cramps
     When the body does not have enough salt and moisture heat cramps may begin. Dr. Roy said, “Replace electrolytes and minerals: Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that must be replaced. The best way to replace these minerals is through consumption of fruit juice or sports beverages. Do not take salt tablets unless directed by a physician.”

     According to the CDC, heat cramps are found normally in the arms, legs, or abdomen because of a high performance task or activity.

What to do about heat cramps
  • Stop the activity and rest 
  • Drink juice 
  • If cramps do not settle after one hour, call a doctor 
     Dr. Roy also cautions against the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages. “Alcohol affects both your body water regulation as well as your ability to adjust to heat leading to an increase in heat exhaustion heat stoke and severe dehydration,” Neil Roy said.

Enjoy the warmth this summer, but make sure to be on the lookout for heat-related illnesses. Stay hydrated!

By: Meghan Burket

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