Heading Off Heat Illness
Two emergency medicine experts share tips for summer safety
The warm weather is finally here, bringing the urge to leave the days of winter hibernation behind and enjoy the outdoors. Local emergency medicine physicians Drew White, MD, and Erik Schobitz, MD, offer some advice to stay healthy this summer.
“Heat illness is one of the more common conditions we see during this time,” says Dr. White, medical director of emergency medicine at Washington Adventist Hospital. “Emergency room visits increase about 18 percent over the summer months.”
Dr. Schobitz, medical director of the pediatric emergency department at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, urges parents to pay particular attention to young children who are out in the summer heat.
“Infants and children younger than 4 are at a higher risk for heat-related illness,” Dr. Schobitz says. “It’s important for children to stay hydrated by ensuring that they drink 4 to 5 ounces of water every 30 minutes.” Drs. White and Schobitz add these important summer health tips:
Take steps to prevent a heat illness.
- Wear light-colored clothes that are breathable.
- Take regular breaks in the shade.
- Drink plenty of water, especially when exercising. Drink fluids before, during and after an activity.
- Avoid intense exercise when temperatures rise above 80 degrees.
Learn the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses.
Heat exhaustion results from the body overheating after exposure to high temperatures with high humidity levels or after excessive physical activity. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Heavy sweating
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Muscle cramps
Heatstroke is a potentially fatal condition, which occurs when your body temperature continues to rise. Watch out for these warning signs:
- High body temperature (104 degrees or higher), the main indicator
- Lack of sweating
- Racing heart and strong pulse
- Neurological symptoms, including seizures and loss of consciousness
- Muscle cramps or weakness
Know when to act.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of heat illness, take the following action:
- Stop the activity and move to a cooler place.
- Provide the person with water to drink.
- For heat illness, call 9-1-1 if the symptoms continue or worsen over 60 minutes.
- If symptoms of heatstroke appear, call 9-1-1 immediately.