Lurking Dangers of Summer Heat and Humidity
Leona Miller, MD with CaroMont Family Medicine—Steele Creek Offers
Tips to Stay Healthy
If you find yourself day dreaming of cooler, fall weather, you’re
probably not alone. Temperatures have consistently reached a staggering
90 degrees across the state during the peak of summer, but even though
the dog days of summer are finding their end, that doesn’t mean
the heat and humidity are something to pass off as no longer a health
threat. Leona Miller, MD, primary care physician at CaroMont Medical Group—Steele
Creek, offers some helpful tips to consider as we begin the countdown to fall.
“Heat alone is a serious threat to anyone who is outdoors for a prolonged
period of time—especially workers and seniors, or children who are
more susceptible to heat illness,” said Dr. Miller. “But when
you introduce humidity to the mix, your risk for heat exhaustion increases.
Heat exhaustion is treatable, but preventing it from happening is far
better and safer.”
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to excessive loss of water
and salt (which, is sweat) and a warning the body is getting too hot.
Heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, in which the body loses its
ability to cool itself. Heat exhaustion is a serious heat-related illness
and can range from mild symptoms such as cramping and headache to more
serious symptoms that can endanger a person’s life.1
Typical symptoms of heat exhaustion include: confusion (this may be the
most important sign that something more serious than just dehydration
is happening), fatigue, headache or dizziness, rapid heartbeat, heavy
sweating, or worse, no sweating at all. If a person stops sweating, has
flushed or a reddish skin color, a temperature above 104 or displays mental
changes such as disorientation or confusion, heat exhaustion has progressed
to heat stroke, which is life threatening.
How do you respond to heat exhaustion?
Dr. Miller recommends finding a cool or shaded area outside or ideally,
indoors where it is air conditioned. If these are not options, follow
- Loosen or remove clothing.
- Use a cool, wet cloth or ice wrapped in a paper towel to place on a person’s
face and body. A spray bottle is perfect for immediate relief as well.
By applying moisture to the skin, it helps the body cool as it evaporates,
a lot like sweat helps to cool you down as it evaporates.
- Drink, drink, drink lots of water! Heat exhaustion and dehydration are
closely linked. Cool water is best, but liquids like Gatorade can help
replenish salt depletion. Signs of losing too much salt displays with
nausea and vomiting. In this situation, lie down and prop up your feet—preferably
above the level of your heart—and place them on rolled-up towels
or a pillow.
“When heat exhaustion is suspected, the goal is to get a person out
of harm’s way,” said Dr. Miller. “Cool off, hydrate,
check their temperature and most off all, seek medical attention as soon
Dr. Miller reminds us to think before you act and limit your time outdoors
if you can. Be prepared with bottled water, even if you’re traveling
by car. Staying hydrated is important all the time regardless of the season.
Wear loose clothing, take a hat and plan your day so you’re only
outside in the morning or late evening hours.
“Keep in mind, by the time you have any signs or symptoms of heat
exhaustion, it is already a medical emergency, especially in children
or the elderly who are more vulnerable to the heat and humidity,”
said Dr. Miller. “Take advantage of the last few weeks of summer,
but just remember to enjoy them wisely.”
CaroMont Family Medicine—Steele Creek is located at 14035 Grandiflora Drive in Charlotte, NC. For a complete
list of primary care physicians at CaroMont Health, please visit caromonthealth.org.