As we enter the hottest week of the year, with heat indexes predicted to exceed 105 degrees, MedStar says it's a good time to remember that prolonged exposure to hot temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses.
In June this year, MedStar crews treated 88 patients with a heat-related illnesses. According to MedStar, 57 patients required transport to area hospitals, and 6 patients were in critical condition.
MedStar advised individuals to be aware of illnesses like heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
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Heat exhaustion can occur when the body loses large amounts of water and salt through sweating, particularly during hard physical labor or exercise, MedStar said. Loss of essential fluids can disturb circulation and interfere with brain function.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include muscle cramps, paleness, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. Children and the elderly are especially susceptible to heat exhaustion.
Heatstroke can occur when the body suffers from long, intense exposure to heat and loses its ability to cool itself. Common signs of heatstroke include confusion, vomiting, alteration in sweating, hot and flushed skin, rapid heart rate, decreased sweating, shortness of breath, decreased urination, increased body temperature, or convulsions, MedStar said.
Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know starts experiencing symptoms of heatstroke, immediately call 911.
Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are common this time of year, but they can be easily prevented, MedStar said. Here are some tips for how to avoid heat-related illnesses:
- Hydrate: Drink water during the day, especially during strenuous activity. Sports drinks are a good choice for exercising or working in hot conditions, but water is a good way to hydrate as well.
- Ventilate: Stay in a place where there is plenty of air circulating to keep your body cool. If you are indoors and don't have access to air conditioning, open windows and use a fan.
- Cover Up: Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing to avoid absorbing the sun's light and trapping heat. Wear a hat to shield yourself from the sun, but once you feel yourself getting warm, remove any items covering your head which can trap heat close to your body.
- Limit Activity: Heatstroke can occur in less than an hour when you are participating in strenuous activity during a hot day. If you feel yourself getting hot or light-headed, stop your activity and rest in a cool place out of the sun. Be sure to drink water or a sports drink before, during, and after any strenuous activity.
- Check on Loved Ones: The elderly are especially vulnerable to heat related emergencies. Many elderly residents are not aware of how hot it may get in their residence. Regularly check on older friends and family members to see how they are doing.
During the recent summer months, MedStar crews have responded to two calls where a child has been left in a hot car.
Texas leads the nation in child hot car deaths, MedStar said.
Children should not be left unattended in cars, and vehicles should be secured to prevent children from being trapped in the car on a hot day.
If you find a child unattended in a hot car, call 911 immediately.