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Moment for Health: Combatting Heat Stroke

Even though a bit of rain in a drought-filled season brought a few drops of water, the heat of summer persists, making us uncomfortably hot in the humid weather.

Dry desert heat seems to prompt people to chug delicious cool water to relieve parched throats, but moist air is deceiving so drinking more water is very important.

Heat injuries during bouts of high humidity are more likely because perspiration on our skin evaporates at a slower rate due to the amount of water in the air. Therefore the body cools down more slowly utilizing more resources to keep its internal temperature from rising.

Heat injuries can happen to anyone and must be understood properly. Signs and symptoms are there, and usually progress to several levels if not remedied. Be aware of them so you can take positive action.

  1. Heat Cramps bring on painful cramping and spasms in legs, arms or abdominal muscles. Hydrate with water and if possible, with electrolyte-replacing fluids right away.
  2. Heat Exhaustion takes it up a notch. Symptoms include feeling tired, weak, dizzy (maybe with headache), feeling nauseous and possible vomiting. This level brings on heavier than normal perspiration with excessive thirst and the skin feels clammy and moist. If experiencing these signs and they do not get better after sitting in a cool place for 15 minutes and drinking fluids, the problem could develop into heat stroke. Call 911.
  3. Heat Stroke has the same symptoms as heat exhaustion but RED ALERT! The difference is the body has used up most of its resources to cool the body, so the skin feels hot and dry, no perspiration, even under armpits; and appears red and flushed. Very rapid heart rate or dramatically slowed heartbeat, shortness of breath and increased body temperature from 104 to 106 degrees as well as confusion, delirium, convulsions or loss of consciousness are all symptoms. This stage is a life threatening situation and can occur suddenly. Don’t hesitate, call 911. Then remove person from the heat into a cool place and apply cold water to the body and remove any tight clothing.

Most heat related problems are due to dehydration. It is not enough to jump in a pool to stay cool. Most of the time, while swimming, drinking water is the last thing on the mind because our bodies feel cooler. Continue to drink water to keep hydrated at all times.

Be aware that heat exhaustion in children can show different symptoms. They don’t necessary sweat excessively, but become irritable and lethargic and their skin feels hot to the touch.

Older people are more heat sensitive and may easily suffer heat-related sickness. Illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure or Parkinson’s disease can be more prone to the effects of heat as well.

Reducing the risks is one of the best ways to avoid succumbing to the heat. Drink at least a gallon (16 glasses) of water a day to combat the heat when outdoors. This translates to about one and a half times more than what the body signals it’s thirsty.

If you are not urinating about every couple of hours, or it is dark yellow, you are not drinking enough water. Avoid alcoholic beverages such as beer and coffee, tea or other caffeine drinks that cause the body to lose fluids.

Wear loosely woven light-colored clothing that is absorbent. Cotton absorbs 40 prcent of its weight in moisture. Synthetic materials tend to trap body heat; though many now are moisture-wicking that evaporates sweat and good for keeping cooler. Wear sunscreen that blocks ultra-violet rays which can heat up the body as well.

Try not to exercise outside during the heat of the day. But no matter if exercising indoors or outdoors, be sure to drink 8 to 10 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes during hot weather. Drinking liquids with caffeine may cause muscle cramping. Instead eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to keep good amounts of sodium, calcium and potassium running through the body. Avoid taking salt tablets since most foods provide enough sodium.

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