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Heat and Humidity Safety Tips

08-15-2017

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 these steps:

  • 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 as possible.

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.

Sources:
1.http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-exhaustion/basics/symptoms/con-20033366

Categories: Health