Summer Care | Prevent Heat-Related Illness

Summer Care | Prevent Heat-Related Illness:

It is summer time and most of us know that extreme heat can make us sick, but most of us believe that heat related illnesses happen only to people who work under extreme heat conditions. But, it is easy to develop heat stroke while sitting perfectly still on the couch, especially at times when the mercury is soaring high. Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down.

“People just don’t understand the risks of extreme heat,” says Michael McGeehin, PhD, MSPH, director of the division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, at the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health. “They aren’t aware how quickly they can get into trouble.” And while heat-related illness can be a problem for anyone irrespective of any discrimination, people who have certain medical conditions or who are on certain medications to treat those conditions are at a greater risk of having problems in this hot weather.

“Any chronic disease lowers your threshold to heat injury,” says James Knochel, MD, from the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. “There’s no question that people with medical conditions are at a higher risk, although they may not know it.”

People who suffer the most are older people and who have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or any other chronic condition.” In order to work well, the body has to stay at a normal body temperature. If it heats up even by a few degrees, your body starts to cool itself. The most obvious and familiar reaction is that you start to sweat. As the hot perspiration evaporates off your skin, you’re cooled down.

The body reacts to heat in many ways. For instance, hot temperatures make the heart to beat faster. It’s not only if one is involved in physical labour, exercise or work. Even if one is sitting perfectly still, the heart will beat harder when the body is hot. The reason stated is because the heart is working harder to push blood to the skin and muscles, thereby getting blood closer to the surface of the body and getting it to cool down by means of sweating.

This process of sweating and cooling down works pretty well in a healthy person, it may not work so well in people with chronic illnesses. When the body can’t get rid of excess heat fast enough, the cooling system eventually breaks down, and the organs begin to overheat. If they get hot enough, they’ll stop working. Confusion, seizures, permanent disability, and even death can occur if treatment isn’t provided in time. Hence, heat stroke is a medical emergency that must be treated in time.

Look for Signs of Heat-Related Illness:

This summer, if you feel you are sick, look for the following signs or symptoms. It’s important to know the signs of trouble. Excessive heat can first cause heat exhaustion, especially in people who are working or exercising out in the sun. The symptoms of heat sickness include:

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Profusely sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Headaches
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you suffer from any of these symptoms, get out of the heat, drink water, juice or sports drink (unless your doctor tells you otherwise), and seek medical attention at the earliest. If it isn’t treated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is a serious medical emergency situation. Heat stroke also develops in people who aren’t being physically active but are simply in a hot environment. The signs of heat stroke are

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Warm, dry skin (because the body is no longer able to sweat)
  • Fever of greater than 104 degrees
  • Severe headaches
  • Seizure or muscle twitching
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death follows hence, remember, heat stroke needs immediate attention.

General precautions in summer:

  • Avoid roaming in intense heat, mainly between 10 am to 3 pm.
  • Wide brimmed caps and protective large sun glasses are to be used while moving out in summer.
  • Clothes should cover total body.
  • Sun screen lotions with sun protection factor above 30 are to be used.
  • Too much make up on the skin should be avoided.
  • Use of umbrella is advisable.

Summer Health Tips:

  • Drink plenty of water around 8-10 glasses every day; your body needs it to prevent dehydration during warm summer days. Take bottles of water with you, if you’re going out for any length of time. Remember, infants and toddlers can become dehydrated much more easily than adults, so be sure they get lots of liquids.
  • Consume lot of fruits, vegetables and juices that would help you stay cool and hydrated
  • If you are ailing from asthma or other respiratory problems, watch the air quality report for the day. Limit your time outdoors on days that have moderate to poor air quality outlooks. In unavoidable situations wear proper mask and remember to carry your inhaler or other medication while going out.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and shoes for outdoor activities. If you’re doing a lot of walking or other sports activities, skip those stylish summer sandals. Avoid blisters and sprains by choosing a good pair of walking shoes. Wear them with comfortable, cotton socks.
  • Never exert too much strain on the body, take a rest. Don’t push yourself beyond your physical limits. At intervals, sit in a shady cool spot.
  • Take cover. Sunburn is painful and unhealthy. Use a good sunscreen, and re-apply as required during the day.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothing and hats to help you stay cooler.
  • Don’t forget sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s UV rays.
  • Maintain your energy level by limiting your intake of fat and sugar; focus on carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid use of alcohol else consume in moderation, and avoid near the time that you may be driving.
  • If you are travelling by air, carry your prescription drugs in your carry-on bag, as it may be dangerous to skip even one dose.
  • It is particularly important to bring medicines with you if you are travelling abroad. Drug names, doses, and availability differ in different countries, and in some parts of the world, drug safety and effectiveness may not be up to U.S. Standards.
  • Check for the labels on your medicines for the possibility that they might increase your sensitivity to sun and/or heat.

While enjoying and having fun this summer, hope you would take necessary precaution to stay healthy and safe guard yourself and your loved ones against heat stroke.

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