Soaring Temperatures Increase Risk of Heat-Related Illness


This summer’s combination of extreme hot temperatures and high humidity can lead to heat-related illnesses that can cause serious illness or death, if left untreated.

“Fortunately, people can avoid a medical emergency by taking precautions and staying alert,” said Dr. Stacey Donegan, with Greenwich Hospital’s Emergency Department. Those most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses include infants, young children, the elderly and athletes.

In general, avoid the outdoors when the sun’s rays are most intense. If you must be outside, minimize direct sun exposure and seek shade whenever possible. Wear sunscreen, sun glasses, a wide-brimmed hat and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to avoid the sun’s harmful rays. Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. Avoid alcohol.

Be on the look-out for these conditions, according to Greenwich Hospital experts:

Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than you take in, making it difficult for your body to carry out its normal functions. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or other non-alcoholic beverages. Severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention.

Heat cramps

Heat cramps are caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating. Low salt levels in muscles can cause painful cramps. Stay hydrated to avoid heat cramps. Consider taking your outdoor exercise routine indoors on days of extreme heat.

Heat exhaustion

Extended time outdoors and in the sun can lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion, which occurs when the body loses water and salt from heavy sweating. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea, weakness, irritability, thirst and heavy sweating. If you suspect heat exhaustion, move the person into a shady or air conditioned place. Lay the person down and slightly elevate the legs and feet. Remove tight or heavy clothing. Give the person cool water or a nonalcoholic beverage to drink.

Heat stroke

Considered a medical emergency, heat stroke results from the body overheating, often after prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Heat stroke can occur if your body temperature rises to 104 degrees F. Eventually, heat stroke victims lose their ability to sweat. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you suspect heat stroke. Move the person into a shady or air conditioned place and remove unnecessary clothing until the first responders arrive. Use a fan or ice packs to cool down the person.

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