Hopla’s Health Tips- Staying healthy: Practicing safety in heat

Deborah L. Hopla, DNP, Contributing Writer

This summer, S.C. has experienced more days of 100-degree weather than previously recorded. Some say, “It’s not the heat but the humidity!” Those with naturally curly hair could certainly relate to the humidity remark, but when it is hot and sunny, there are also some health concerns that must be considered.

Have you ever been jogging or running and had sudden cramping in your legs or stomach muscles? This is part of a heat-related problem. If the cramping does not go away with hydration, then a person can rapidly progress to heat exhaustion. Some symptoms of heat-related illness are rapid pulse, sweating profusely, feeling dizzy, nausea or headache. Dark urine is also a signal of dehydration.

It is important to listen to your body. If you notice signs of heat exhaustion, stop, hydrate and cool off the next progression is heat stroke. Heat-related illness can cause your body’s temperature rises to over 104 degrees and make your skin flushed and hot to the touch. Some patients may become confused, anxious, disoriented, vomit or sometimes have seizures. Heatstroke can damage your brain, heart, kidneys, muscles and even lead to death.

If you experience any of those symptoms, there are a few steps to reduce the chances of heat stroke or exhaustion. If it is just cramping, then stop the activity and hydrate with water. Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks because those will further dehydrate the body. Take a cool shower or bath and remove any unnecessary clothing.

If the person shows signs of heatstroke, alert Emergency Medical Services by calling 911. Try to get the person into a cooler place like somewhere in the shade or inside an air-conditioned building. Wet the person down and remove any unnecessary clothing. Apply ice packs, if available, to the groin, armpits, neck and back.

Some medications place a person at a greater risk of having a heatstroke. These medications can include: diet pills, antihistamines (allergy) pills, laxatives, antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants (seizure medications) and diuretics (water pills).

However, don’t be afraid of the heat. Protection from the sun, hats, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes and hydrating with non-caffeinated beverages also help reduce the likelihood of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Wearing a sunscreen with a SPF rating of 30 will help prevent melanoma and sunburn, and doing activities in the early morning or late evening are simple ways to protect against the heat.

The heat should not scare you from being outside. Practicing safe habits can help make that time more enjoyable. Be aware of your body, and don’t push it too hard in the heat.