Residents should take summer heat seriously

With temperatures in the area beginning their climb to mid-summer highs, people need to be able to beat the heat and make sure they are safe when working or playing outdoors.

Davis Memorial Hospital Emergeny Department Nurse Manager Tim Thorpe offered his advice for prevention of heat-related injuries or illness.

“Heat-related illness is often the result of people not knowing or heeding to the warning signs,” Thorpe said. “Illness such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and sunburn can often be avoided by proper planning and hydration. Even if you are in good shape and physically active your body needs to acclimate to hot weather.

“Basic precautionary measures such as drinking plenty of fluids, applying sunscreen frequently and planning physical activity or labor during the early morning and evening hours can help people stay safe while enjoying time outside.”

Other good advice for dealing with hot weather includes avoiding liquids containing alcohol or large amounts of sugar – these actually cause a loss of more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. Chose to visit places with air conditioning such as a shopping mall or public libraryeven a few hours spent in air-conditioning helps the body stay cooler. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness.

Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place, are much better ways to cool off. Finally, wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing during extremely warm weather. Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle during times of extreme heat.

Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Those most susceptible to heat-related illnesses include infants and young children, people older than 65, people with mental illnesses and people who are physically ill, especially those with heart disease or high blood pressure.

Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent supervision.

Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia in which the body temperature is elevated dramatically. It can be fatal if not promptly and properly treated. Symptoms of heat stoke could include a higher than normal body temperature, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing, fast heart rate, confusion, headache, lack of sweating, muscle cramps and unconsciousness.

If you must be out in the heat:

  • Limit outdoor activity to morning and evening hours when it is cooler.
  • Cut down on exercise. Drink two to four glasses of cool, non-alcoholic fluids each hour.
  • Try to rest often in shady areas.
  • Use a wide-brimmed hat and use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. The most effective products say broad spectrum or UVA/UVB protection on the label.

Another important recommendations is wearing sunglasses. Dr. Craig Hyre, optometrist at at Family Eye Care Center in Elkins, said protection from ultraviolet rays is important for two reasons.

“Cataracts are highly correlated with ultraviolet rays,” Hyre said. “Protection can be tricky because low quality sunglasses don’t block rays, but allow pupils to dilate. This causes a window effect and actually lets more ultraviolet rays in than not wearing sunglasses at all.”

Hyre said ultraviolet rays also have a hand in retinal diseases such as macular edema. A new study indicates more occurrence of age-related macular degeneration with an increased exposure to sunlight.

If heat-related problems are expected, seek medical care immediately.