Officials discuss symptoms, methods to combat heat-related illnesses

BIG RAPIDS — While autumn in Michigan has officially begun, the weather has warmed up in the area over the past few weeks. Between walking to and from work or school and extracurricular activities, families can find safety tips to beat the heat online or by asking their local doctor.

“Excessive heat can be a killer,” Phillip Adler, PhD and manager of Spectrum Health Medical Group’s sports medicine section, said in an article. “Whether it’s working in your backyard garden, running along the beach or playing sports at the park, make sure you know the signs of the different types of heat-related illness and what to do about them.”

Families can prevent heat-related illnesses by staying cool, keeping hydrated and being informed, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

To help stay cool, the CDC suggests wearing lightweight clothing; staying in air-conditioned places as much as possible; scheduling outdoor activities during the cooler hours of the day, such as in the mornings or evenings; and wearing sunscreen. The CDC reminds parents and guardians not to leave children or pets in hot cars, even if the windows are cracked open.

Throughout the day, people should drink plenty of water and keep fresh water available for their pets, the CDC says. Individuals should steer clear of sugary and alcoholic drinks. The CDC says people should replace the salts in minerals the body sweats out during the day.

Families can stay informed about the heat by checking the local news, and should monitor those who have a high risk of heat-related illness, such as the elderly, infants and young children, people who overexert themselves while working and those who are physically ill, according to the CDC.

When exposed to the heat, Addler warns community members to be wary of cramps, exhaustion, stroke, syncope and exercise-associated hyponatremia.

Heat syncope, which can occur when people who have not acclimated to the heat or immediately after starting or stopping an activity, includes symptoms such as fainting for a short period of time, dizziness and feeling light-headed, Addler said. People can combat heat syncope similar to the methods used to battle heat cramps — rest in a cool location and drink water and sports drinks.

Heat exhaustion, however, requires more extensive treatment, similar to heat stroke or

hyponatremia. Heat exhaustion can be characterized by heavy sweating, cold and clammy skin, a rapid pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, persistent muscle cramps, fainting and hyperventilation.

“This is the stage of heat illness right before heat stroke,” Addler said. “Heat exhaustion must be recognized and treated quickly. Offer first aid and medical care.”

Addler suggested removing any excess clothes, such as hats and shoes, from an individual suffering heat exhaustion. People who suffer heat exhaustion but are not vomiting should be given water, placed in a cooler location and ice packs should be placed on target areas of the body, such as under armpits and on the neck.

During a heat stroke, victims may show symptoms, such as hot skin, nausea, irrational behavior, rapid or slow breathing, rapid or weak pulse, disorientation and drowsiness. Combating heat stroke is similar to helping those who suffer from heat exhaustion; however, family or friends should call 9-1-1 and seek emergency medical care as healthcare workers often use intravenous fluids to rapidly hydrate a heat stroke victim, Addler said.

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Posted by Meghan Gunther-Haas

Meghan is the education reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review. She can be reached at (231) 592-8382 or by email at mhaas@pioneergroup.com.

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