Beat the Heat

By: Ali Gorman
By: Ali Gorman

Every summer, hundreds of people suffer from heat-related injuries. Most susceptible are the very old and the very young.

Elderly people should be checked on if they live at home. They need to be staying cool with air conditioners and fans and should be drinking enough water to stay hydrated.

Babies and toddlers also need to be monitored because they won't be able to tell someone when they are not feeling well. Kids playing outside should take short breaks in the shade and drink an electrolyte-containing beverage.

Dr. Robert Femia, Emergency Services Director at Sparrow Hospital says the initial signs you may have a problem may be muscle cramps, dizziness or feeling light-headed. He said if you are out sweating and being active, you need to replace electrolytes such as salt and potassium with Gatorade-type beverages.

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Tips on Preventing and Managing Heat

  • Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

  • Don’t drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

  • Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library–even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

  • Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.

  • Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:
    • Infants and young children
    • People aged 65 or older
    • People who have a mental illness
    • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure

  • Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

If You Must Be Out in the Heat

  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.

  • Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage. Remember the warning in the first “tip” (above), too.

  • Try to rest often in shady areas.

  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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