Use extra care when summer heat hits

6/14/2012

By Dr. CHARLES WEINTZ

Hot' nuff for, ya? Now that the month of June is upon us and the summer season is about to kick in, we all will be hearing that question posed much more frequently.

With the increase in temperature during the summer months and the increase in outdoor activity, one needs to be mindful of potential hazards.

The main concern is heat stroke. Most of us have either experienced this summer concern or know of an individual who had the unfortunate occurrence.

Heat stroke is a condition that can happen when people's bodies get too hot. Usually, this occurs when people are outside in very hot and humid conditions and are not drinking enough fluids. However, this condition can occur with people who are not exercising as well. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that needs to be aggressively treated.

Heat stroke can lead to major complications (including death) if not treated immediately. When people get too hot, they also may have "heat cramps" and "heat exhaustion." These conditions are not as serious as heat stroke, but they are the warning signs of impending heat stroke if they are not treated.

What are the symptoms of heat stroke? A body temperature of 104 degrees F or higher. Neurological symptoms may include loss of balance, trouble walking, confusion, hallucinating (seeing or hearing things that aren't really there), passing out (fainting), seizures.

When a person is experiencing heat stroke other signs/symptoms might be fast breathing, fast heartbeat, muscle weakness or cramps, headaches.

Should I see a doctor or nurse? Yes. The person's health can deteriorate quickly if not treated appropriately. It is vital for the person to receive quick and adequate medical treatment.

How is heat stroke treated? The first step is to cool the body. The most common intervention is vigorous IV hydration.

Can heat stroke be prevented?

Yes. Being proactive will help prevent heat stroke. Some interventions include frequent breaks throughout your day; fluids, fluids and more fluids, drink plenty of water or sports drinks (non-caffeinated) throughout your day; wear lightweight, breathable clothing, which will allow your body heat to escape while providing minimal resistance to cooler air passing through the clothes; if exercising try to accomplish your routine in the early morning hours.

How can I cool my body down during the day?

Get into the shade for a break or get into an air-conditioned building or automobile; take a cool shower or bath; if you are wearing clothes that are layered lose the extra layers; use cold packs on your head, neck and armpits; consider spraying yourself with water and sitting in front of a fan; continue to drink a hearty amount of fluids (no caffeinated or alcoholic beverages).

The summers in Kansas bring some of the best times for friends and family. These times should be thoroughly enjoyed by all. However, when you begin to hear the friendly folks ask "Hot 'nuff for ya?" remember what steps to take to continue the enjoyment of this coming summer.

Dr. Charles Weintz, formerly of Hays, is the author of "Healthy Headlines." He is a family physician at Stanton County Family Practice in Johnson City.

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