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Don’t Let Heat Illness Ruin your Summer July 2, 2010

For more information, call Rebecca Sylvester at 706/828-2394.

Don’t Let Heat Illness Ruin your Summer

AUGUSTA, GA. – (July 2, 2010) – With June 2010 in Augusta registering as the hottest since the 1950s, prepare yourself now to weather the rest of the summer in cooler fashion.

People of all ages are at risk for heat- and sun-related illness, according to Beth Barranco, a registered nurse with University Hospital. “But the elderly, babies and toddlers, mentally ill and chronic disease sufferers are at greater risk,” she said.

Our bodies, which create a tremendous amount of internal heat, are normally cooled through sweating and radiating heat through our skin, Ms. Barranco said. Under certain circumstances, such as unusually high temperatures, high humidity or vigorous exercise in hot weather, this natural cooling system may begin to fail, allowing internal heat to build up to dangerous levels.

“The result may be heat illness, which can result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heatstroke,” Ms. Barranco warned.

Heat cramps are brief, severe cramps in the muscles of the legs, arms or abdomen that may occur during or after vigorous exercise in extreme heat. The sweating that occurs with vigorous exercise causes the body to lose salt and fluids. And the low level of salt causes the muscles to cramp.

“Kids are particularly susceptible to heat cramps when they haven't been drinking enough fluids,” Ms. Barranco said. “Although painful, heat cramps aren't serious. Most heat cramps don't require special treatment. A cool place, rest, and fluids should ease a child's discomfort. Massaging cramped muscles may also help.”

Heat exhaustion is a more severe heat illness that can occur when someone in a hot climate or environment hasn't been drinking enough fluids. Symptoms may include:

  • dehydration
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • clammy skin
  • headache
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • hyperventilation (rapid breathing)
  • irritability

If you experience these symptoms, come indoors or into the shade. Loosen or remove your clothing, drink fluids and bathe in cool (not cold) water. “Call your doctor for further advice,” Ms. Barranco said. “If you feel too exhausted or ill to eat or drink, intravenous (IV) fluids may be necessary. If left untreated, heat exhaustion may escalate into heatstroke, which can be fatal.”

The most severe form of heat illness, heatstroke is a life-threatening medical emergency. The body loses its ability to regulate its own temperature. Body temperature can soar to 106° F (41.1° C) or even higher, leading to brain damage or even death if it isn't quickly treated. Prompt medical treatment is required to bring the body temperature under control.

Factors that increase the risk for heatstroke include overdressing and extreme physical exertion in hot weather with inadequate fluid intake. Call for emergency medical help if someone has been outside in the sun exercising for a long time and shows one or more of these symptoms of heatstroke:

  • flushed, hot, dry skin with no sweating
  • temperature of 105° F (40.6° C) or higher
  • severe, throbbing headache
  • weakness, dizziness, or confusion
  • sluggishness or fatigue
  • seizure
  • decreased responsiveness loss of consciousness

While waiting for help:

  • Get indoors or into the shade.
  • Undress and sponge or douse with cool water.
  • Do not give fluids.

Ms. Barranco said, to help protect against heat illness, drink plenty of fluids before and during an activity in hot, sunny weather — even if you’re not thirsty. Wear light-colored, loose clothing. Participate in heavy activity outdoors only before noon and after 6 p.m. Come indoors immediately whenever they feel overheated.

For more information on heat and sun related illnesses, contact ASK-A-NURSE at 706.737.8423 or the CDC at www.cdc.gov. For daily updates and links visit www.facebook.com/bbarrancoRN.

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