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Summertime Smarts

Monday, July 23, 2018

Scorching sun

No doubt about it, this summer has been a hot one. The 90-degree day tally keeps creeping upwards. Normally, upstate New Yorkers have little worries when it comes to heat exhaustion or stroke; however, health concerns are rising with the heat index. Heat-related illnesses(, like heat exhaustion or heat stroke, happen when the body does not cool properly by itself. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, during extreme heat, this might not be enough. In these cases, a person’s body temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. This can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs. Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness but some people are at greater risk. Infants and young children, folks 65 and older, those who are overweight, people who overexert during work or exercise, people who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, and those who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation are especially vulnerable. Taking steps to prevent heat-related illnesses and knowing the symptoms is an important step in protecting yourself and loved ones.  The CDC offers the following advice.

Heat Exhaustion Symptoms

What to look for

·       Heavy sweating

·       Cold, pale, and clammy skin

·       Fast, weak pulse

·       Nausea or vomiting

·       Muscle Cramps

·       Tiredness or weakness

·       Dizziness

·       Headache

·       Fainting (passing out)

What to do

·       Move to a cool place

·       Loosen your clothes

·       Put cool, wet clothes on your body or take a cool bath

·       Sip water

·       Get medical help right away if: You are throwing up, your symptoms get worse, or your symptoms last longer than 1 hour

Heat Stroke

What to look for

·       High body temperature (103 degrees or higher)

·       Hot, red, dry, or damp skin

·       Fast, strong pulse

·       Headache

·       Dizziness

·       Nausea

·       Confusion

·       Losing consciousness (passing out)

What to do

·       Heat stroke is a medical emergency – Call 911 Immediately!

·       Move the person to a cooler place

·       Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath

·       Do not give the person anything to drink. 

Stay Cool - Prevent Heat-Related Illness  

Wear Appropriate Clothing: Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Stay Cool Indoors: Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the 90s, they will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully: Limit outdoor activity to the coolest hours of the day, morning and evening. If outdoors, rest in the shade often.

Pace Yourself: Cut down on exercise during the heat. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or shade, and rest.

Wear Sunscreen: Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply per bottle instructions.

Do Not Leave Children (or pets) in Cars: Cars quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, even with a window cracked open. While anyone left in a parked car is at risk, children are especially at risk for heat stroke or dying. When traveling with children, remember:

·        Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.

·        To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.

·        When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.

Drink Plenty of Fluids: Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.  If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot. Avoid Sugary and alcoholic drinks as they cause you to lose more body fluid.

Replace Salt and Minerals: Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions; talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.

Keep Your Pets Hydrated: Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area.

Use a Buddy System: When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you know someone 65 years of age or older, check on them twice a day during a heat wave.

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville, NY. To discuss this topic, contact Lorraine at or (585)335-4327. 

Media Contact

Mary Sue Dehn

(585) 335-4323

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