Summer heat poses health risks; take steps to stay safe

Heat advisories, warnings and watches have been issued in recent weeks across the country, putting millions of Americans at risk.

At least six deaths were attributed to the massive heatwave, and events, such as the New York City Marathon, were cancelled, according to CBS News.

Besides being uncomfortable, hot weather also can pose potential health risks. If you need to be outside, be sure to seek shade and be sure to drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. (Christine Holtzman)

And, it comes as no surprise that Florida’s notorious heat and humidity also can create potentially dangerous conditions.

So, what can people do to reduce their risk of suffering from heat-related illnesses?

One of the most important steps people can take is to avoid dehydration, said Dr. Katrina Cordero, the Emergency Room medical director at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North, in Lutz.

Dehydration can lead to other complications, including heat exhaustion and heatstroke, she said.

Heatstroke is a serious condition that requires immediate emergency care, Cordero said.

Symptoms of heatstroke include a temperature, confusion and, at times, irritability, she said.

Other symptoms can include hallucinations and tremors, she added.

Cordero offered some reminders to help avoid heat-related illnesses.

“If you must be outside for a prolonged period of time, at least try to stay in some shade,” the doctor said.

Be sure to stay hydrated. It helps to carry a bottle around with you, to serve as a reminder, she added.

Drinking Gatorade can help, too, to restore electrolytes that are lost when people sweat.

A personal fan can help keep you cool, and wearing a broad brim hat can give you your own personal shade, too.

“If  you must go out, make sure you’re not staying out there all day,” she said.

Beach-goers also need to avoid too much time in the sun, she said. “You might want to take a break, go into a store — so your body has a chance to cool down.”

It’s also important to wear sunscreen, and to reapply.

People often forget to reapply — especially after they’ve been swimming, she said.

“Just a short exposure, with our strong sun, can cause some damage,” Cordero said.

The doctor also advised coaches to be sure they give their players plenty of chances for water or sports drink breaks.

“The hotter that it is, increase their (break)  frequency, depending on how long they’re staying out and how much they’re exerting themselves,” Cordero said.

Summer dangers

Children die in hot cars
Fifty-two children died in hot cars in 2018 — the deadliest year on record in the past 20 years, according to the National Safety Council. Almost 800 children have died from vehicular heatstroke since 1998.

How does it happen?

  • A caregiver forgets a child in a vehicle
  • The child gains access to a vehicle
  • Someone knowingly leaves a child in a vehicle

The National Safety Council says to stick to a routine to reduce the risk of forgetting a child. Keep a purse, briefcase or even a left shoe in the back seat to force you to look there before leaving the car. Also, be sure to keep vehicle doors locked, to prevent children from climbing in; and never leave a child inside the car when you are not there, even if you’re just running a quick errand. (Editor’s note: Remember to protect your pets from hot cars, too).

Prevent drownings
Drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children ages 1 through 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC offers these key prevention tips:

  • Learn life-saving skills: Know the basics of swimming (floating, moving through the water) and learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Fence your pool: Use a four–sided isolation fence, with self–closing and self–latching gates.
  • Require life jackets in and around natural water bodies, such as lakes or the ocean.
  • Be vigilant: Closely supervise kids when they’re in or near water, including bathtubs. Drowning happens quickly and quietly. Adults watching kids in and near water should avoid distracting activities, such as playing cards, reading books, talking on the phone, and using alcohol or drugs.

Heatstroke is dangerous, can be deadly
Heatstroke requires emergency treatment, experts at the Mayo Clinic say. Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.

Published July 31, 2019

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