Tips to Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses this Summer

heat-related illnessesIf you’ve been feeling hot this summer, you’re not alone. This year has been hotter than usual here in South Florida, and that means that we’re all feeling the Miami heat. In fact, Miami has set an overnight heat record with the most consecutive days with low temperatures of 80 degrees or more. That means that the days have been even warmer, and it won’t cool down for a while.

With the temperatures hovering around 90 degrees on a regular basis, it’s important to keep yourself and loved ones safe from heat-related illnesses such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, and the sometimes deadly, heat stroke. Children under four years old and seniors over 65 years of age are at a higher risk for developing one of these conditions, so it’s vitally important that you know the symptoms and ways to prevent or treat these conditions.

Heat-Related Conditions Can Expedite Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when you lose or use more fluids than you are actually taking in. Usually this happens when you aren’t taking in enough hydrating liquids and are sweating quite a bit.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Very dry lips and tongue
  • Feeling weak and tired
  • Possible muscle cramps
  • Skin may be paler
  • If you pinch your skin and it doesn’t immediately return to normal shape
  • Less urination and/or a darker color urine

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion happens when your body overheats, and it usually happens prior to heat stroke, which can be fatal.

Heat exhaustion symptoms include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Weakness, exhaustion
  • Excess sweating
  • Headache, nausea, and vomiting may occur

Warning Signs of Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a very serious condition that occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to high temperatures along with dehydration. When your body overheats and reaches a temperature of 104 degrees, this can cause damage to your brain and other internal organs. Someone suffering from heat stroke should be treated by medical professionals as soon as possible. 

Signs of heat stroke include:

  • Core temperature above 104 degrees
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of sweat
  • Red, hot dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shallow breathing
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Possible seizures or unconsciousness

The most important thing to remember is that if you suspect that someone is suffering from heat stroke to call 911 immediately, but also begin first aid before medical professionals arrive.

  • Move patient to a cooler location, indoors or in the shade
  • Fan patient while wetting the skin
  • Apply ice packs to neck, armpits, and groin
  • If possible, place patient in cool shower or bath

Prevention of Heat-Related Illnesses 

The chance of developing heat-related illnesses increases with the heat index reaching 90 degrees and higher, which can be often here in South Florida. Remember to stay hydrated at all times this summer, and year-round in warmer places. It is recommended that you drink seven to eight glasses of water a day, and if you are outdoors or active, you should double that. If you ever feel hazy, drink a glass of water, as it will also help you to feel more alert. Gatorade and other sports drinks are okay, as long as you are paying attention to the sugar content.

Stay in the shade as much as possible, but if you must be outside, take breaks often to hydrate and step inside into a cooler environment. Full exposure to the sun can increase the heat index by 15 degrees, and puts you at a higher risk for developing a heat-related condition.

Avoid large amounts of caffeine and alcohol, even if mixed with water-based drink. These substances can dehydrate you at a faster rate. Also keep an eye on the amount of sugar that your kids are drinking in juices. It’s better to stick with cool, refreshing water as the temperatures rise.

It’s especially important to monitor the outdoor activities of children and older people during the hottest months. Aging may cause the body’s thirst mechanism to break down, so older people are particularly at risk for dehydration. Keep an eye on the living conditions of those who may be most susceptible for heat-related illnesses to ensure that they have proper air-cooling and flow.

If you feel that someone you know has suffered a serious heat stroke. other serious heat-related injury, or even death due to the negligence of an individual or organization, speak with a personal injury attorney. In some incidents of negligence, you may be able to recover for both economic and non-economic damages to help compensate for your losses.

References:

Sakimura, R. J. (2016, August 17). 4 Simple Ways to Stay Hydrated This Summer. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/johannah-sakimura-nutrition-sleuth/simple-ways-stay-hydrated-this-summer/

Weather., K. M. (n.d.). Florida averages hottest temperature on record through June. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from http://weatherplus.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2017/07/10/just-in-florida-averages-hottest-temperature-on-record-through-june/

Heat Stroke: Symptoms and Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/heat-stroke-symptoms-and-treatment#4

Jerry Carino, The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record. (n.d.). Tips on avoiding heatstroke and dehydration. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/06/28/tips-avoiding-heatstroke-and-dehydration/434551001/