Health Consequences of Summertime Heat

August 15, 2019 by Lee Group
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Here in Laredo, the summer seems like one long heat wave. And though staying out of the heat is often our best defense against heat-related illness, it’s not always possible. That’s why Laredo Emergency Room sees many patients every year, especially in summertime, for heat exhaustion, dehydration, and the more serious heat stroke.

Dehydration

Starting with the most common, dehydration affects almost all of us, especially in a heat wave. The saying that “if you’re already thirsty, you’re already dehydrated” is true. Common symptoms of dehydration include a cotton-mouth sensation and thirst – but other symptoms include inability to focus and fatigue.

Many, many people are mildly dehydrated regularly and don’t know it. Watching for symptoms and staying ahead of thirst by regularly drinking water even when you don’t feel thirsty can help. But on the other end of the spectrum, severe dehydration can be serious. When this happens, symptoms range from absence of or darkly colored urine, very dry skin, dizziness, rapid heartbeat and breathing, confusion, sunken eyes, and fainting. In these instances, Laredo Emergency Room can treat dehydration effectively with intravenous (IV) fluids. We can also perform a variety of simple tests to identify whether there is a more significant underlying cause of the dehydration.

Heat Exhaustion

More serious than dehydration alone, heat exhaustion often goes hand in hand with it and comes with many of the same symptoms, including dark-colored urine, dizziness, and fainting. It also adds nausea or diarrhea, heavy sweating, fatigue, headache, clammy skin, and muscle cramps to the list.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion should immediately seek a cool, breezy, and shady place to rest, rehydrate with water or sports drinks, and use cool compresses to the back of the neck and other parts of the body. If there isn’t improvement within an hour, seek emergency treatment.

Heat Stroke

The most serious of these heat wave ailments, heat stroke is a serious medical condition that sends more than 4,000 people to the ER each year in the United States. Heat stroke can cause death or damage to muscles and internal organs, including the brain. A signature sign of heat stroke is a core body temperature of at least 104 degrees Fahrenheit, combined with symptoms such as nausea, fainting, lack of sweat, red and hot skin, rapid heartbeat, seizures, confusion, disorientation, and even loss of consciousness.

When heat stroke is suspected, seek emergency care at Laredo Emergency Room right away. Until professional care can be given, attempt to lower the affected person’s body temperature by wetting the skin or, if the heat stroke occurred due to rigorous exercise, by applying ice packs.

Prevent Heat

Injury In spite of the summertime heat in Laredo, there are ways to help keep your cool and avoid heat injury, including wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothes, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, drinking extra water or sports drinks, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and avoiding outdoor activities in the middle to late afternoon.

The summertime heat and dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke go hand in hand, so take some simple measures to keep yourself cool when temperatures rise. And if you should find yourself experiencing symptoms of heat-related illness, Laredo Emergency Room is here to help.

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