Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Judi Siegert, OTR/L, COS-C, Porter Hills Home Care Clinical Manager, Therapy
With summer in full swing, we have already experienced some high temperature days, and some high humidity. What are some things that we can do to defend ourselves from heat related illnesses?
Click here to view the WZZ13 Senior Wellness segment on this topic.
- 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 your doctor how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
- Don’t drink liquids that contain 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.
What can you do if you have to be out in the heat, maybe for your job, or for an event like an outdoor wedding and such?
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).
What are the different types of heat related illnesses, and some of the symptoms?
Heat cramps may be the first sign of heat-related illness, and may lead to heat exhaustion or stroke.
- Painful muscle cramps and spasms usually in legs and abdomen
- Heavy sweating
- Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm.
- Give sips of water unless the person complains of nausea, then stop giving water
- Heavy sweating
- Cool, pale, clammy skin
- Fast, weak pulse
- Possible muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Move person to a cooler environment
- Lay person down and loosen clothing
- Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of the body as possible
- Fan or move victim to air conditioned room
- Offer sips of water
- If person vomits more than once, seek immediate medical attention.
- Altered mental state
- One or more of the following symptons: throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathing
- Body temperature above 103°F
- Hot, red, dry or moist skin
- Rapid and strong pulse
- Faints, loses consciousness
- Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
- Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment.
- Reduce body temperature with cool cloths or bath.
- Use fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s. A fan can make you hotter at higher temperatures.
- Do NOT give fluids.
Taken in part from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention