AS TEMPERATURES RISE in sunny Florida, so does your risk of developing heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Approximately 20 cases of heat stroke per 100,000 people occur annually, with at least 240 deaths.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are caused by exposure to hot temperatures and increase your core body temperature. Signs and symptoms include cold clammy skin, heavy sweating, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, thirst, weakness, and headache. As one’s body temperature approaches 106 degrees F, symptoms evolve into the absence of sweating, hot, dry and red skin, shallow breathing, confusion, irritability, hallucinations, seizures, loss of consciousness, and death.
If you suspect heat exhaustion or heat stroke:
• Call 911
• Move to a shaded or air-conditioned space.
• Drink cool water or non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages like sports drinks to help restore electrolyte balance. Only give cool drinks if they are not disoriented and not vomiting.
• Take a cool shower or sponge bath.
• Spray cool water on yourself and sit in front of a fan or have others fan you.
• Massage or stretch cramping muscles.
• Elevate feet higher than their head to reduce the chance of shock.
• Remove clothing and attempt to cool them down by wrapping them in a cool, wet sheet or spraying them with cool water and fanning them.
• Put ice packs or cold compresses under their arms, on their groin area, and behind their neck.
You can prevent a heat-related illness by staying cool and hydrated. Here are some tips for staying cool:
• Wear clothing that is loose fitting and preferably made of cotton or natural fabrics.
• Swap shoes, sneakers, and socks for open sandals.
• Don’t overdo the sunshine. Yes, we need vitamin D, but we also must balance sun exposure with keeping cool, so limit exposure between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. and wear a hat.
• Use sunscreen. It prevents sunburn and reflects harmful ultraviolet rays that can cause skin cancer.
• Drink water. Keeping your fluid intake high to counter the heat is important. However, drinking beer or alcoholic drinks can actually leave you more dehydrated than ever.
FACT: if you drink a glass of beer, your body will expel three times that volume and can leave you dangerously dehydrated. Consider drinking pure water throughout the day to counter dehydration, and avoid sweet or alcoholic drinks until the cooler evening. You are drinking enough water if you are visiting the bathroom as frequently as usual.
This article is sponsored by Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center.
column by TRISHANNA SOOKDEO MD, MPH
BIO: Dr. Trishanna Sookdeo is a board-certified family medicine physician who also has a master’s degree in public health. She provides compassionate and quality care to the whole family, ages 3 days and up. If you have any questions or wish to schedule an appointment with her, call (863) 419-2420, ext. 2, and ask for Dr. Sookdeo.