North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Health

June 17, 2011

Avoid heat-related illnesses this summer

Health Watch

COMMENTARY — As we endure temperatures near the nineties, the concern of sun exposure and  heat related illnesses increases. Even when you’re having fun riding the boat at the lake, you can’t forget the ever-present risk of heat-related illnesses.  

These include dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke (also known as sun stroke).  It’s hard to imagine that being on a lake with billions and billions of gallons of water you can get dehydrated, but you can.  

However, by reducing excessive exposure, and taking other precautionary steps, most heat-related illnesses can be avoided.

Heat illness can strike virtually anyone. However, certain people are at greater risk, such as older people, the overweight, and those who drink too much alcohol. Also, certain medications, such as antihistamines, antipsychotics and some antibiotics, can make you more susceptible to heat-related illnesses as well.

Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking a medication that may raise concerns with sun and heat related exposure.

Dehydration

Dehydration is by far the most common heat-related concern. The symptoms of dehydration include:

• thirst

• fatigue

• irritability

• dry mouth

• feeling hot

Dehydration occurs when your body loses too much fluid. This can happen when you stop drinking water or lose large amounts of fluid through diarrhea, vomiting, sweating or exercise. Not drinking enough fluids can cause muscle cramps. You may feel faint. Usually your body can reabsorb fluid from your blood and other body tissues.

By the time you become severely dehydrated, you no longer have enough fluid in your body to get blood to your organs, and you may go into shock, which is a life-threatening condition.

Dehydration can occur to anyone of any age, but it is most dangerous for babies, small children and older adults. So, be a good neighor and check on that older person on your street this summer to make sure that he or she is staying cool.

Children who start complaining about being thirsty, or just seem irritable in the heat may have early signs of dehydration.  Get the child out of the sun and into a cool place. Have them drink plenty of cool fluids such as water or sports drinks. Avoid sugary fruit juices or sodas with more than 8 percent carbohydrates, as they are not absorbed as rapidly by the body. Take off any excess layers of clothes or bulky sports equipment to speed the cool-down process.  

Heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke all occur when your body cannot cool itself adequately.  Each is slightly different.

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