Stay safe when temperatures rise

As summer begins to sizzle, babies and the elderly are most vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. But you might be surprised who is more likely to end up in the ER: athletes who push themselves beyond safe limits.

“Anyone can get heatstroke. It has nothing to do with whether you’re a good athlete — your speed or your strength,” says Jose Portuondo, MD, chief of emergency medicine at Doctors Hospital. “The important thing is really that people recognize it.”

Across the country, the last Friday in May is designated as National Heat Awareness Day. “Heat causes more deaths in the United States each year than any other weather event, including hurricanes and floods combined,” Dr. Portuondo notes. “I hope it will catch people’s attention.”

In South Florida, people are already well aware of the heat, but whether they are taking steps to protect their health is another matter.

Dr Portuondo worries about the most vulnerable – the very young or the elderly whose bodies may not be able to adapt as effectively, people with chronic conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure. , pregnant women, overweight people, and those on certain medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, and beta-blockers.

But he also worries for those with outdoor jobs, youngsters playing in demanding sports leagues or tournaments, and healthy adults determined to stick to their training schedules.

“I still see a lot of people working out in the middle of the day, which is totally inappropriate for this time of year,” says Dr Portuondo. “It’s really amazing what some people are going to do. Some people think that the more they sweat, the more weight they will lose – when in fact it has absolutely nothing to do with anything. They put themselves in danger. »

What you should know

Your body normally cools itself naturally through sweating, but sometimes it just can’t keep up. Heat-related illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke, occur when a person’s temperature reaches dangerous levels and bodily fluids are expelled. In these cases, a person’s temperature may rise faster than the body’s ability to cool itself. It can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs.

Immediate action should be taken when a person shows signs of overheating, says Dr. Portuondo. This includes moving the person to a cooler, shaded area or an air-conditioned space; provide drinking water; loosen or remove clothing so that sweat can evaporate; and cool them by fanning them and/or misting them with water. “You can jump them into a pool if there’s one accessible, hose them down with a garden hose, give them a cool shower — all of that,” advises Dr Portuondo. The person should be carefully monitored to ensure that they improve.

If the person gets worse and suffers severe cramps, vomiting, disorientation or loss of consciousness, they may be suffering from heat stroke, which is life-threatening. It’s time to call 911.

“You have a thermostat inside the body in the recesses of your brain, and it can stop when you reach a certain body temperature. The body realizes, ‘I’m losing fluid’ and it stops If you stop sweating, your body can no longer cool itself and your temperature continues to rise.Every time you reach a temperature of 104, you are one step closer to heat stroke.

play it safe

With less severe symptoms like dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat cramps, a hospital visit may not be necessary. Early preventative action should help the person improve within an hour. The key is to help them cool down and absorb enough fluids, says Dr. Portuondo.

If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, getting medical attention early can mean the difference between life and death. Dr Portuondo recalls the widely publicized case of a football player who collapsed in training several years ago and was taken to Doctors Hospital. Her core temperature of 109 degrees was so high that disbelieving emergency personnel rechecked her three times. Quick action helped save his life, although he spent 12 days in a coma and took several months to recover.

“Water is fine — it doesn’t need to be salted or anything, it doesn’t need to be supplemented, you don’t need to buy it from a grocery store. . You can just give them water and the vast majority of them will be fine,” he says.

However, even when the person begins to feel better, they should not go back to what they were doing. After a heat-related incident, a person should take time to recover.

“It will probably take at least 12 hours, or preferably overnight, for people to normalize once they hit this issue,” says Dr. Portuondo. “I would recommend that they cease their activities and stay in a comfortably cool place for the rest of the afternoon or evening.”

Prevention is the best

While it is important to react quickly, it is even wiser to avoid the problem.

“It is unfortunately very hot here, but also very humid, and that increases the heat index. If the heat index is over 91, you need to be aware and careful,” warns Dr Portuondo. “In Miami, you can assume in early June it will be 90 or more, and that will probably last through September.”

Protect yourself by following these tips:

Drink water. Refuel before you get thirsty. Staying hydrated helps manage your body temperature. Take water with you.

Dress for the heat. Wear a hat and loose, lightweight clothing made of breathable material such as cotton. Choose light colors, which reflect some of the sun’s energy.

To slow down. If you must do strenuous activity, do it during the coolest part of the day, which is usually before 7 a.m.

• Take frequent breaks. FFind a shady spot to cool off. Stop the activity if there are signs of heat-related illness.

• To be aware. Monitor weather reports so you can make sound decisions. And remember, it’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity.

• Wear sunscreen. Sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself and can dehydrate you. (By the way, National Sun Protection Day is also held on May 27 as a reminder of the importance of protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.)

Never leave a child in a car. Make a habit of checking your back seat when you get out of your car. If you have a toddler, lock your car in your own driveway. Children can wander outside and get trapped inside. 23 children died in burning cars in 2021.

Keywords: children’s health, dehydration, Doctors Hospital, heatstroke, heat-related illness

Jessica C. Bell