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Heat wave ushers in summer; how to stay safe, healthy

Staying safe during extreme heat

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Extreme heat kills more people than any other weather event, per the National Weather Service.

Climate change is leading to longer and more severe heat events, such as the current heat wave across the Midwest and other parts of the world.

During these hotter times, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of heat illness, how to prevent it, and when to seek medical attention.

Here are points discussed on News 8’s “Morning Checkup With Dr. Janel Gordon.”

Steps to Prevent Heat Illness

  • Limit time outdoors, especially during the hottest and most humid part of the day.
  • Stay in air-conditioned areas and take frequent breaks in the shade when outdoors.
  • Wear sunscreen and reapply every couple of hours.
  • Wear loose-fitting lightweight clothes, a wide brim hat and sunglasses.
  • Stay hydrated with water even if not thirsty. Slower sips throughout the day are recommended over large gulps randomly. Speak with a doctor if on fluid-restrictions.
  • People who are sweating excessively should consider drinking electrolyte replacement in addition to water.
  • Avoid sugary beverages, caffeine and alcohol. These cause the kidneys to increase urination. Know that darker urine may be a sign of dehydration.
  • Eat light like fruits and salads.
  • Keep the body cool with wet cloths around the neck or misting fans.

Heat illness

The three common forms of heat illness include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat cramps: Oftentimes, this is the first sign of heat illness, affecting the legs and abdomen. Gentle massage and slow sips of water can help relieve these. Cramps lasting longer than an hour require immediate medical attention.

Heat exhaustion: Commons symptoms include heavy sweating; cool pale and clammy skin; fast and weak pulse; nausea; vomiting; headache and dizziness; tiredness; and muscle cramps. If experiencing some of these symptoms, move to a cool area; apply cool wet cloths to neck, armpits and groin; and sip water slowly. Immediate medical attention will be needed if symptoms worsen, last longer than an hour, or vomiting occurs.

Heat stroke: This is the most severe form of heat illness. Major differences are lack of sweating; red dry skin; rapid, strong pulse; high body temperature above 103 F; throbbing headache; confusion; and possible loss of consciousness. Emergent medical attention is needed.

Children, especially infants, the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, are at greatest risk of developing these illnesses.

These people should not be left unattended in the heat, especially outdoors and in cars. Be sure to double-check the car before exiting.

Some medications may also increase the risk of heat illness. Discuss this with a primary care doctor or prescriber.

Summer is a time for many outdoor activities: fairs, festivals, cookouts, concerts, trips to the pool or beach, and gardening. Enjoy these activities, just stay prepared to prevent heat symptoms and seek further medical care when needed.