June 21st will mark the first day of summer, the beginning of what has already become a hot summer in Central Texas. Although summertime in Texas is ideal for outdoor events such as family barbeques and swimming parties, along with these outdoor activities come the dangers of heat-related illness for adults and children.
The old adage, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” is particularly important this time of the year, says Jeff Jarvis, MD, emergency medicine physician at Scott & White Healthcare – Round Rock. Jarvis explains that heat exhaustion is a serious illness triggered by insufficient body fluids and prolonged exposure to heat. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, tiredness, clammy skin, extreme thirst, muscle cramps, and often nausea or vomiting. Heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heat stroke, a medical emergency.
“A heat stroke occurs when the body’s cooling system fails and the body cannot regulate its temperature. Warning signs include increased body temperature, dry skin, a rapid pulse, disorientation or unconsciousness,” explains Dr. Jarvis. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or even death — call 9-11 if you think someone is having a heat stroke. Until help arrives, move the victim to a cool, shaded area, remove excess clothing and dampen the skin with moist cloths.
While the summer heat can take a toll on anyone, those at most risk include:
- Children under the age of four
- Seniors over age 65
- Overweight individuals
- Persons who are already ill or taking medications
“The solution is water, water, and more water,” says Dr. Jarvis. “Staying hydrated with plenty of cool water is the most effective tool in preventing heat-related illnesses. In extreme heat, the body cannot disperse heat properly and body temperature soars. Water helps the body adjust to high temperatures and restore fluid lost through sweating.”
Dr. Jarvis goes on to say “don’t forget the sunscreen as well.”
Some additional tips for dealing with the sun’s rays:
- Familiarize your body to the increasing heat by gradually spending more time outdoors.
- Drink water frequently. Avoid alcohol, coffee, sodas, and tea as these can lead to dehydration.
- If possible, avoid spending prolonged time outside between 12pm and 4pm, which is the hottest time of day.
- When outdoors, wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.
“Remember, your body can only take so much fun in the sun, and pushing it to the limit can be very dangerous. Heat illness can develop rapidly and with very little warning. Use commonsense this summer – slow down, take breaks, and drink plenty of fluids,” offers Dr. Jarvis.
For more information, please call 512-509-0100.