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7/17/2019

Staying cool in a heat wave and warning signs of heat-related illnesses


With summer temperatures rising, HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals have tips for staying cool and how to know the warning signs of heat-related illnesses, like heat stroke, which requires medical attention. 

Heat exhaustion is common during a heat wave. Symptoms include heavy sweating, fast but weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, headache and passing out. If you or others experience these symptoms, move to a cool place, sip water, loosen your clothes and put cool, wet washcloths on your body to cool down. Seek medical help right away if you or someone else is vomiting, symptoms get worse or the symptoms last longer than one hour. 

Heat-related illnesses are preventable, so stay cool and stay hydrated. Here are some tips:
• Wear lightweight clothing
• Stay cool indoors
• Don’t be outside if you don’t have to be
• If you must be outdoors, pace yourself and take breaks
• Wear sunscreen
• Avoid hot and heavy meals
• Drink more fluids, regardless of your activity
• Don’t wait to drink water until you’re thirsty
• Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks

“Heat exhaustion happens before heat stroke,” said Brett Berg, a registered nurse in the emergency departments at HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals. “Heat exhaustion is when your body can’t control its temperature, and your body needs to cool down. But heat stroke is a medical emergency when you’ve moved beyond heat exhaustion. If it’s hot out and you’re sweating, and all of the sudden you stop sweating – that’s what you really need to worry about. Because then your body has no way of cooling itself.”

Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency. If you or someone you know exhibits symptoms of a heat stroke, call 911 right away. Symptoms include:
• High body temperature (103 degrees or higher)
• Hot, red, dry or damp skin
• Fast, strong pulse
• Headache
• Dizziness
• Nausea
• Confusion
• Loss of consciousness

Move the person to a cooler place after calling 911. You can also help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath. It is not recommended that the person is given anything to drink.

Certain people are at higher risk for heat-related illnesses, including infants and young children, people 65 and older, people who are overweight, and people who are physically ill. If a person experiences a heat-related illness, it’s common for them to lose consciousness. If you know someone in any of these categories, make sure to check on them at least twice a day during a heat wave.

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Shannon Portell
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Karen Kraus
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