Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Health Care and Heat Exhaustion

During the summer months, you can become overheated without realizing what is happening to you. Heat exhaustion can be deadly. If you are playing or working outside in hot weather, one of the most dangerous health situations from overexposure to the heat can result in major difficulty for you. Heat exhaustion can lead to serious physical and mental fatigue, as well as the possibility of not being able to recover.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), Heat exhaustion occurs when your body gets too hot. The hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls thirst and hunger, also controls the body's core temperature. Normally, the body cools itself by sweating. When you are exposed to high temperatures for a long time (working outdoors in the summer, for example) and don't replace the fluids you lose, the body systems that regulate temperature become overwhelmed.

As a result, your body produces more heat than it can release. Heat exhaustion requires immediate attention because it can progress to heat stroke, a life threatening illness. People with heat exhaustion may experience the following signs and symptoms:

·         Heavy sweating
·         Fatigue
·         Headache
·         Pale, clammy skin
·         Thirst
·         Rapid heartbeat
·         Dizziness, fainting
·         Nausea, vomitin
·         Muscle and abdominal cramps
·         Mild temperature elevations
·         Weakness

If body temperature goes above 104 °F, or if coma or seizure occurs, the patient may have heat stroke. If left untreated, heat stroke can quickly lead to heart attack and death. More details can be found at this website: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/heat-exhaustion .

For children, the diagnosis for heat exhaustion is similar, but the situation can deteriorate much more rapidly for them. Here is a good website for more on heat safety for kids: http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/sheets/heat_exhaustion_heatstroke_sheet.html .

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), if someone is exhibiting symptoms of heat exhaustion, take these precautions:

·         Move to a cooler location.
·         Lie down and loosen your clothing.
·         Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible.
·         Sip water.
·         If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.

People who work outdoors are more likely to become dehydrated and are more likely to get heat-related illness. Here are ways to limit risk  for heat exhaustion, if you work outside in particular:

·         Drink from two to four cups of water every hour while working. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink.
·         Avoid alcohol or liquids containing large amounts of sugar.
·         Wear and reapply sunscreen as indicated on the package.
·         Ask if tasks can be scheduled for earlier or later in the day to avoid midday heat.
·         Wear a brimmed hat and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
·         Spend time in air-conditioned buildings during breaks and after work.
·         Encourage co-workers to take breaks to cool off and drink water.
·         Seek medical care immediately if you or a co-worker has symptoms of heat-related illness.

Additionally, people who exercise in extreme heat are more likely to become dehydrated and get heat-related illness, as well as individuals with severe or chronic medical conditions. You can see more about this topic at this site: http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/warning.html .

Avoid heat exhaustion by not engaging in strenuous activity in hot, humid environments. People not used to the heat should be particularly careful. Intersperse periods of rest in a cool environment with plenty of available fluids to drink. Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day, according to this website: http://www.onhealth.com/heat_exhaustion_and_heat_stroke_health/article.htm .

Review the weather report before strenuous activity and look specifically for the heat index (which combines temperature and humidity). Heat stroke often occurs in infants, children, and adults who are unable to modify their environments: the elderly, overweight, and bed-ridden people.
 
People who are taking types of blood pressure, allergy, or depression medication may also be particularly at risk and should avoid hot environments. Individuals in supervisory positions such as coaches, trainers, and lifeguards should be trained to specifically recognize signs of heat illness and what preventive measures to take.

The prognosis is related to the severity of the heat exposure and the patient's general medical condition, according to OnHealth.com. The very young and the very old have the worst outcomes. In general, the prognosis with heat exhaustion is excellent, with full recovery expected. However, with heat stroke, permanent nerve, heart, liver, or kidney problems, or even death, can occur.

Be careful in the heat. Take proper precautions to avoid heat exhaustion, and stay hydrated. Heat exhaustion can change rapidly to heat stroke, and worse. If you are in a high risk category, or are around people who are, take care to properly prevent exposure to hot temperature situations or locations, especially in the summertime. If you feel like you are having problems leading to heat exhaustion, or see someone who is, get immediate medical help.  Heat exhaustion should not be ignored.

Until next time.

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