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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Avoiding summertime heat-related illnesses

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer is officially here. As the mercury begins to rise, we need to be sure we are all taking the necessary precautions to keep ourselves and others safe and out of the Emergency Room. Too often, a disregard for simple, important provisions can lead to a summer vacation that is less than fun.

A few of the most common heat-related health events people experience, include: sunburn, heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.


Everyone is familiar with sunburns, and most have experienced the inflamed skin after being over-exposed to the sun's rays. Those that are fairer in skin tone are often more in tuned with being properly prepared for the sun, but even those that tan easily or those are darker in nature, should also take precaution.

Applying a sunscreen can not only help to prevent an irritating burn, it can help to lower your risk for the skin cancer melanoma. Find a sunscreen that provides a minimum of coverage of SPF 15 and protects against UVA and UVB rays. Today, sunscreens can be purchased in all forms: sprays, creams and lotions. Find one that will work best for you and your family and the activity in which you will be participating and then apply it generously.

Heat Rash

Heat Rash is a cluster of small red bumps, often resembling pimples or blisters. The often occur in areas like the neck and chest, groin and in the elbow creases. Keeping these key areas dry can help to lessen the frequency of the rash as well as relieve the discomfort after the rash appears.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps usually affect those that sweat a lot during a strenuous activity. The sweating depletes the body's salt and water supply. The drop in salt can cause muscle pains or spasms, also known as cramps, in the abdomen, arms and/or legs. If you experience a heat cramp, you should:

* Stop all activity and sit in a cool place

* Drink clear juice or a sports drink

* Limit activity for a few hours after the cramping subsides

* If cramps last longer than one hour, seek medical attention

Heat Exhaustion

Heat Exhaustion develops over a number of days when continually exposed to high temperatures. Often we become dehydrated when our body perspires and the fluid-intake has not been adequate.

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

* Heavy sweating

* Loss of color

* Muscle cramps

* Weakness

* Dizziness

* Headache

* Nausea

* Fainting

* Rapid, shallow breathing

Ask the person to increase their fluid intake by drinking cool nonalcoholic beverages, rest, take a cool shower or bath and move to an air-conditioned area. Heat Exhaustion is a milder version of heat stroke and can develop into heat stroke if not properly handled.

Heat Stroke

Heat Stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. When the body's temperature rises fast, the body's cooling defense, perspiration, often fails. Heat Stroke can be serious and can happen very quickly. Within a matter of 15 minutes the body can reach 106 degrees and can lead to permanent disability and even death.

* Red, hot and dry skin

* Rapid or strong pulse

* Throbbing headache

* Dizziness

* Nausea

* Confusion

* Unconsciousness

If you notice someone experiencing one or more of these symptoms, move them quickly to a shady, cooler area. Cool them rapidly using any method available. A cool water shower or wrapping them in a cool, wet sheet and fanning them vigorously are two methods that can be very effective.

If you are unable to lower their body temperature, call for medical assistance.

Summer is a time for fun and relaxation. Ensure a safe and happy summer for you and your family by remembering these simple tips:

* Drink plenty of fluids. You should increase your fluid intake as the temperature rises. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink, instead be continually rehydrating. Avoid beverages that include alcohol or large amounts of sugar. These drinks can actually encourage dehydration.

* Avoid hot, heavy meals. Heavy meals, especially hot ones, add extra heat making it even more difficult for your body to cool down.

* Replace salt and minerals lost through perspiration. The body loses salt and minerals during heavy sweating. It is important that they are replenished. A sports beverage can help to replace the minerals and salt lost.

* Wear appropriate clothing. Choosing lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing will help to keep the body cool.

* Wear sunscreen. Be sure to apply sunscreen before exposure and to reapply as the label directs.

* Schedule outdoor activities carefully. If you must be outdoors, try to schedule the most activity in the morning or evening when it is cooler. If the activity must be in the middle of the day, rest often in a cool, shady area to allow your body to recover and prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

If someone is having a difficulty during the summer, get them to a cool spot and help them to cool off quickly. If they act unusual or become unresponsive, seek medical attention immediately. It is better to play it safe and get them checked out.

Dr. Brian Downen is an Emergency Room Physician at Putnam County Hospital and sees a number of summertime injuries and illnesses. He encourages everyone to remember these simple safety tips, stay hydrated and cool and avoid long periods of time in the sun.

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