Here is some great information to help you do your best to get through the summer with nothing more than great memories and lots of fun.
Heat stress can range from mild to life threatening — can affect men and women, regardless of their age. However young children and the elderly are most vulnerable. Babies and infants can’t regulate their body temperature well; the elderly may be taking a medicine that adds to heat stress. Athletes are vulnerable because they use a lot of energy and generate a great deal of heat, so they need to stay hydrated. In its milder form, heat stress symptoms include thirst, fatigue and feeling hot. But if the early warning signs are ignored, true heat illness can develop. Heat illnesses start with cramps, progress to heat exhaustion and can become heat stroke.
Heat cramps include cramping in the legs or abdomen, usually accompanied by dizziness, thirst and rapid heartbeat. At least a quart of water or other unsugared drink is recommended. Drinking liquids is the most important step to keeping healthy. Water is best, but lemonade and iced tea are good substitutes.
Dizziness, nausea, headaches and rapid heartbeat are symptoms of heat exhaustion. At this point, emergency medical attention is necessary.
Heat stroke is serious and requires medical attention immediately. It is the result of the body’s inability to manage the heat load. The skin is now hot but dry, and the person may be unconscious. This is a medical emergency. Call 911!
Good prevention methods are crucial to staying healthy in the heat. Here are some tips:
• if working outside, try to work in the early morning or after 6 p.m. when it is cooler
• if working in a non-air conditioned area, drink a quart of water every hour
• if your diet allows, use extra salt on foods
• consider air conditioned places such as a mall or library
• do not leave children or pets in the car
In the summertime, many people are rushed to the Emergency Room with heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Here are some simple tips to help you stay cool.
- Do not over exercise in hot weather.
- Wear a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
- Keep a water bottle handy to sip so that you do not have to worry about dehydration.
- Pace yourself if you are going to be working outside under the sun for a long time. Take regular breaks so your body has a chance to cool down.
- Remember, overcast days are just as hot and dangerous as sunny days
Keep in mind that just the way you go about daily activities can make all the difference.
• Strokes can happen any season, but is easier to miss in hot weather, until it’s too late! Know the stroke warning signs — weakness, numbness or paralysis to the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body), sudden blurred or decreased vision, difficulty speaking or understanding speech, dizziness, balance or coordination problems and sudden or severe headache. Get immediate attention.
• Drink, drink, drink! Kidney stones are more common during the summer months because warmer weather causes dehydration and increases concentration of substances in the urine. These substances crystallize to form stones. Increasing fluid intake (3 to 4 quarts of fluid per day) may help keep kidney stones from forming.
• Watch out for rising temperatures! Problems related to the summer heat are common for older persons. This is especially true for senior citizens with heart disease and other chronic illnesses, and for people who take certain medicines like diuretics (water pills), some types of antidepressants and tranquilizers. The symptoms of heatstroke are not specific but include dizziness, weakness, nausea, headache and a sensation of warmth. Just as people enjoy the warm temperatures of spring and summer, so do bacteria. Be careful not to leave foods out on the counter in warm weather for any length of time. Foods can be breeding grounds for bacteria. These bacteria produce toxins that may be harmful to the digestive system and cause food poisoning. During the warm weather months, eat only well-stored and refrigerated foods and foods that are thoroughly cooked.
• Avoid the midday sun if you have heart disease and your doctor has prescribed an exercise program for you. Do your exercises early in the morning or in the early evening when it is not as hot.
• Sunglasses with UV protection can help enhance the eyes’ ability to filter out the sun’s damaging rays. Choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV radiation (UV-A and UV-B). Be careful of sunglasses that don’t specify exactly what amount of UV rays they block.
A final note on children in the hot weather:
In the heat, your baby will most likely sweat more and feel like eating less. To make up for fluids lost due to perspiration, be sure that your child increases his or her fluid intake. Since many infants drink less when they are uncomfortable in the heat, it’s best to offer the breast or bottle at frequent intervals.
Older children should be given water or diluted fruit juices between their usual bottle feedings. Whenever possible, allow time for your child to cool off after coming inside from a hot day before offering food, since the heat can stifle their appetite. If your baby is eating solids, it’s a good idea to try feeding your child smaller meals at more frequent intervals. Don’t forget to pack water for yourself.
Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!
The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.
Glenn Ellis, is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist. He is the author of Which Doctor?, and Information is the Best Medicine. A health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, nationally and internationally on health related topics, Ellis is an active media contributor on Health Equity and Medical Ethics.
For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com.