It's the dog days of summer, but even the dogs don't want to be outside for long in this heat. With weather like this, it's easy to overheat whether you're working in the yard, playing a round of tennis, or just sitting by the pool. Plus, high school sports practices are starting soon and your athlete is going to be sweating up a storm as they prepare for their season. It's never been more important for us to know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses. So, the physicians at Englewood Health have a few well-timed tips to help you decipher if you're just a tad toasty or if you have reason to be concerned.
Jacqueline R. Ysique, MD, is a family medicine specialist and a member of the Englewood Health Physician Network who sees patients at Englewood Health's four Urgent Care locations in Englewood, Cresskill, Fair Lawn and Jersey City. Dr. Ysique says that "Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are both forms of hypothermia, also known as heat illness."
So, how do you know if you're experiencing heat exhaustion or if you're in danger of heatstroke? Dr. Ysique gives these guidelines:
You can experience heat exhaustion when your body overheats and loses water after prolonged exposure to high temperatures. It's more likely to occur when high temps are combined with high humidity and/or taxing physical activity. Symptoms may include excessive sweating, a rapid pulse, dizziness, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea and a headache.
If you start to experience these symptoms, "Move to a cooler location and rest for several hours," says Dr. Ysique. "Drink a cool glass of water or replenish your electrolytes with a sports drink." If the symptoms worsen or don't improve after an hour, contact your doctor. You might need to be treated so that your heat exhaustion doesn't lead to heatstroke, a potentially life-threatening illness that occurs when your body becomes overwhelmed by excessive heat and can't cool itself off.
Oy, couldn't the weather just break already? Well, if it doesn't, keep an eye out for these symptoms of heatstroke: all the symptoms associated with heat exhaustion, a body temperature that rises as high as 106° F within 10 to 15 minutes, confusion, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, and/or seizures.
Call 911 immediately if you see someone experiencing these symptoms. Then stay with them until medical professionals arrive. If possible, move the person to a shaded area, remove their top layer of clothing, wet their skin with cold water or ice, place a cold, wet cloth on their head, neck, armpits, and groin, and fan them with whatever you have handy to circulate the air around them.
One more thing to remember: "Children and the elderly are more at risk of developing heat exhaustion and heatstroke. During a hot summer day, children can easily overheat at the pool or the beach and the seniors who live alone may overheat if their residence lacks proper ventilation or their air conditioning fails," says Dr. Ysique. In both cases, speedy intervention can save lives.
The good news, according to Dr. Ysique, is that both heat exhaustion and heatstroke are preventable if you stay hydrated and avoid strenuous activity in the heat. When it's this warm outside, drink plenty of cold fluids, avoid exercising in the heat of the day, wear loose fitting clothing, and cut back on the booze. As much as possible, stay out of the sun between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm, the hottest hours of the day. But if you overdo it and need to see a medical professional, Englewood Health's Urgent Care locations are open seven days a week for walk-in appointments. So, go ahead and enjoy these last days of summer. Maybe even take Fido for a short walk. Just remember, Englewood Health is here to help if you need it and fall will be here before you know it.