UK HealthCare

Tips To Help Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 27, 2012) -- With temperatures expected to soar to the 100-degree mark later this week, UK HealthCare is preparing to see an increase in the number of heat-related illnesses in their emergency departments.

"Each year during heat waves like the one we're expecting this week, we see more and more folks come to the emergency department with illnesses brought on or worsened by those high temperatures," said Dr. Ryan Stanton, medical director at UK HealthCare's Good Samaritan Hospital Emergency Department. "In lots of cases, these visits to the emergency department could have been avoided if the patient had taken simple steps to prevent common heat-related illnesses."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extreme heat exposure caused 3,981 deaths in the United States between 1999 and 2005. Between 1973 and 2003, more people in this country died from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.

The CDC offers the following tips on dealing with extreme heat.

  • Keep your body temperature cool to avoid heat-related illness.
    • Never leave a child unattended in a car. Enclosed vehicles can reach deadly temperatures in a matter of minutes, especially high-risk individuals such (children, elderly.)
    • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
    • Find an air-conditioned shelter.
    • Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device.
    • Avoid direct sunlight.
    • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
    • Take cool showers or baths.
    • Check on those most at-risk twice a day.
  • Because your body loses fluids through sweat, you can become dehydrated during times of extreme heat.
    • Drink more water than usual.
    • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more fluids.
    • Drink from two to four cups of water every hour while working or exercising outside.
    • Avoid alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar.
    • Remind others to drink enough water.
  • Stay updated on local weather forecasts so you can plan activities safely when it’s hot outside.
    • Check local news for extreme heat alerts and safety tips.
    • Learn the symptoms of heat illness.

"It's extremely important that we not only take care of ourselves, but that we also take care of those around us who are most vulnerable - the elderly and children," Stanton said. "Know what to look for when dealing with heat illness, and take immediate steps to help those who might be ill. With a little up-front prevention, we can keep ourselves and those we care about well during extreme summer weather."

The warning signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

Untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. If symptoms are severe or the victim has heart problems, seek medical attention immediately.