With temperatures soaring to nearly 100 degrees this week and northwest Louisiana under a heat advisory, medical professionals are telling everyone to stay hydrated.
Cordarius Wayne, a certified athletic trainer with Minden Medical Center Orthopedics, specializes in sports medicine, which means he sees a lot of heat-related illnesses during the hotter summer months. However, heat-related illnesses don’t just apply to athletes.
The three main illnesses of which he warns is exertional heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps. Wayne attributes the body overheating to when a car engine overheats. If it gets hot enough, it stops working.
“The body temperature gets overheated,” he said. “Your body temperature is 98.6 degrees, and when your body’s core temperature gets into the hundreds, you have failure in your body. You can actually be brain damaged because your brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen. It’s like a car engine getting overheated.”
Exertional heat stroke is the most severe, and if someone experiences this illness, he says, act immediately to decrease the body temperature by ice water immersion, or an ice bath and seek immediate medical attention.
Heat exhaustion is less severe, but no less important. He says if you feel dizzy, are fainting, vomiting or have headaches, stop exercise or activity and go to a cool environment and elevate your feet above your heart. He recommends resting for the next day or two to recuperate.
Heat cramps are associated with intense muscle contractions, he says. If you experience these contractions, stop exercise or activity and increase the sodium in your diet. Many athletes, he says, drink pickle juice or a high sodium drink to stop the cramps. If your body is cramping, this means your muscles are experiencing a loss of oxygen.
According to a Minden Medical Center news release, when the body becomes overheated, it cools itself through sweating, and when the body can no longer regulate its temperature, these conditions occur.
People at greatest risk for heat-related illnesses include infants and children up to four years of age, adults age 65 and older, people who are overweight, ill or are on certain medications.
“Outdoor workers, as well as people on low-sodium diets or those suffering from chronic heart, lung or kidney conditions are also at increased risk,” MMC officials report.
Wayne says people who are running fever, are suffering from diarrhea or fatigue do not need to exercise in the sun.
“That’s when your electrolytes are low, so it’s recommended that you go to a cool environment,” he said, adding people can exercise at local gyms.
The American Red Cross also offers some tips during the hotter part of the summer.
Know those in your neighborhood who are elderly, young, sick or overweight. They are more likely to become victims of excessive heat and may need help.
Ensure that your animals’ needs for water and shade are met.
Be aware of both the temperature and the heat index. The heat index is the temperature the body feels when the effects of heat and humidity are combined. Exposure to direct sunlight can increase the heat index by as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do not leave children unsupervised in parked cars. Even in less threatening temperatures, vehicles can rapidly heat up to dangerous temperatures. A child left inside a car is at risk for severe heat-related illnesses and/or death, even if the windows are cracked open.
Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen. Choose lightweight, light-colored, and breathable fabrics (such as cotton), as well as broad-spectrum sunscreen (with protection from both UVA and UVB sun rays) to protect you and your child from the heat and potential sun-related skin damage. Hats and umbrellas can be used to limit exposure to harmful sun rays.
“Always wear skin protection,” Wayne says, “sunblock with an SPF 30 and above.”