Beating the Heat – Avoiding Dehydration and Heat Stroke
The hot Texas summer has arrived. It brings with it an increased risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke because of the high temperatures and thick, humid air. According to the Center for Disease Control over 600 people die from heat related illnesses each year in the United States. The elderly, infants and persons with chronic medical conditions are most susceptible to these illnesses and are a contributing factor in the higher mortality rate of these groups. Understanding heat related illnesses, knowing the signs and symptoms and how to treat them can help save the life of someone you love.
Dehydration is caused when the body loses water content, electrolytes and essential body minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium bicarbonate and phosphate due to illness, overexposure to the sun and just not hydrating enough in this heat. The most common symptoms of dehydration are thirst, less-frequent urination, dry skin, fatigue, dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, dry mouth and increased heart rate and breathing. If caught early, simple rehydration can be done at home under a doctor’s supervision. Drinking plenty of fluids such as sports drinks or water with added minerals and electrolytes can effectively restore the body’s fluid balance. In cases that are more serious, hospitalization and intravenous fluids may be necessary.
Heat exhaustion develops after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate replacement of fluids. When you are not beating the heat symptoms will include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle tiredness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting, a fast and weak pulse, cool and moist skin, and fast and shallow breathing. Heat exhaustion can be prevented by drinking plenty of nonalcoholic beverages, taking cool showers, wearing light, lose fitting clothing, avoiding strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day and when possible seek an air-conditioned environment such as a mall or public library.
Heat Stroke is the most serious of the heat related illnesses and can be fatal if not treated properly and promptly. The body produces a tremendous amount of internal heat that is normally dissipated through emission from the skin or by evaporation of sweat. As a result of exposure to extreme heat,
high humidity, or intense exertion in the sun, the body is unable to dissipate heat quickly enough causing the body temperature to rise, sometimes up to 106° or higher Severe dehydration can also cause heat stroke because the body is unable to sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, which causes the body temperature to rise. Symptoms include high body temperature, the absence of sweat, rapid pulse, confusion, agitation, difficulty breathing, hallucinations and red or flushed dry skin. Heat stroke should be treated immediately as it can cause permanent organ damage. If someone is showing symptoms of heat stroke notify emergency services (911) immediately, get the victim to a shady area and remove unnecessary clothing. Apply cool water to the skin, place ice packs under the arm pits and groin area, and fan the victim to promote sweating and evaporation. Heat stroke can be prevented by avoiding prolonged exposure to extreme heat, keeping hydrated, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, which can lead to dehydration, taking frequent breaks and wearing hats and lightweight, loose fitting clothing.
Prolonged exposure to the summer heat can be dangerous for anyone, but especially the elderly, infants and the chronically ill. To help protect them, visit at least twice a day and check for signs of heat related illness, take them to an air-conditioned location if needed and make sure the home is properly ventilated.
For more information, please contact Assisting Hands® Home Care at 281\-540-7400 or visit us on the web at www.assistinghands.com.