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How to Handle the Summer Heat Safely

Know how to prevent heat-illness

Austin is no stranger when it comes to extreme heat. With summer heat taking its hold over Central Texas, making work and play during the day much more uncomfortable.. and possibly more dangerous.  Heat illness is a condition doctors and providers at The Austin Diagnostic Clinic see a lot more of during the hottest months of the year.

What is heat illness?

Heat cramps

Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms, and they usually happen while exercising in the heat. They are usually caused by not drinking enough fluids.

Treatments

  • Rest and cool down
  • Drink fluids, especially those with electrolytes
  • Gently stretch and massage the muscles affected

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is more serious than heat cramps. It is often associated with

  • Weakness
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Heavy sweating
  • Nausea
  • Weak pulse
Drying off with towel

It’s important to find ways to stay cool in the heat.

Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke if it is not treated. If you or someone with you shows signs of heat exhaustion:

  • Go to a cool place and rest
    The best place to go is a building with air conditioning. But you can also get out of the direct sun and find shade.
  • Drink fluids
    Water with electrolytes is best, but be aware that sports drinks may have a lot of sugar. Avoid soda and alcohol, which can actually cause dehydration.
  • Take a cool shower
    Applying cool water to your skin can help cool you down.
  • Loosen your clothing
    Remove any unnecessary layers so that air can reach your skin to cool you down.

Heat stroke

Is the most severe form of heat illness. It happens when you body is no longer able to regulate its own temperature.

Symptoms

  • Body temperature over 103 degrees
  • Hot, red skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness

In the case of a heat stroke, call 911. The person should be moved to a cool place immediately.

How to prevent heat illness

Fortunately, there are steps you and your family can take to manage the heat and avoid harming your health. Howard Baade, a nurse practitioner with The Austin Diagnostic Clinic, says it starts with planning your time outside. “Exercise common sense,” Baade said. “Don’t go out and try to be a hero when it’s 105 degrees at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Give yourself 15 minutes on and 5 minutes off.” Baade recommends checking the weather forecast before heading out for the day. “Sometimes, if the humidity is too high or the heat and humidity combined are high, it could affect what you are going to do the rest of the day,” he said. Sometimes just knowing what to expect can help you avoid heat illness.

What are some other things you can dobefore you go out in the heat?

  • Drink water
    Hydrating before and during strenuous activity outdoors is crucial. Avoid waiting until you are thirsty to drink water.
  • Eat smaller meals, including a little salt
    Foods can also replenish some of the necessary electrolytes. Just a small amount of salty foods, like crackers, can replenish as well as fluids.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing
    A wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen are also a good idea.
  • Avoid alcohol
    It may be tempting to enjoy some cold adult beverages while enjoying the lake, but it’s important to avoid alcohol in the heat. Alcohol can affect the way the body cools itself and cause dehydration.

Are there lasting effects to suffering heat illness?

Heat illness does not have long-term effects on the body unless the heat it is severe.

Severe heat illness can cause seizures, unconsciousness, organ failure and death.

But in general, as long as mild heat illness is treated quickly, there are no lasting effects.

One might feel a little fuzzy and weak for a day or two, but usually those symptoms will resolve.

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