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Hot weather can lead to dangerous medical conditions

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150811HeatOh, sunshine! There is nothing like a beautiful, sunny day to make us want to get out and enjoy all the benefits of dry weather. This summer’s hot weather got me thinking. When temperatures hit record highs, how do you stay cool?  

Driving home in my air-conditioned car, seeing die-hard athletes running, people walking with strollers, and parents playing with their kids at the park in the late afternoon sun, I wonder if people are aware of the dangers of overheating?  

Those of us who live in the Northwest are not used to high temperatures, and nice weather usually means a ticket to get outside and play yet we may not realize the dangers.

Infants, children and the elderly are at especially high risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, even when undertaking minimal to no activity, because their bodies are not as able to rid themselves of heat. The body cools itself by sweating and evaporation. Exercising, doing yard work, and even playing at the park on hot days puts these groups at especially high risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include abdominal cramps, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, fast heartbeat, low blood pressure, and muscle weakness. With heat stroke, a person’s body temperature can reach 104 degrees F and they can cease to sweat. Those experiencing heat stroke can experience  confusion, hallucinations, trouble walking, seizures, and fainting—all are signs of a medical emergency.

Heat exhaustion can usually be treated at home by cooling down the body and increasing hydration with water and sports drinks. If nausea and vomiting prevent rehydration, seek medical attention. Monitor the person to see if they stop sweating, become confused or have a seizure; immediately call 911 for emergency services if these symptoms arise.  

Keep in mind that cars can reach 131-172 degrees F, even with windows rolled down, triggering heat-related injury or death. Please do not leave loved ones, kids, grandparents or pets in hot cars.

Take measures to stay cool:

•    Exercise early in the day, before it gets too hot.
•    Take it easy and take breaks in the shade.
•    Hang out in air-conditioned buildings.
•    Drink plenty of fluids, water and sports drinks; avoid alcohol and caffeine.
•    Wear loose, light-weight clothing—no layers.
•    Avoid hot cars.
•    Spray yourself with cool water and sit in front of a fan.
•    Take a cool bath or shower.
•    Put cold packs or washcloths on your neck and armpits.

For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/

 

Melanie Chala Wayne, MSN, FNP-BC is a nurse practitioner for Oak Street Medical and Oregon Allergy Associates.