BROOKLYN, NY (July 8, 2013) – Maimonides Medical Center urges everyone to take all possible measures to prevent heat-related illness during the scorching days of summer. Awareness of the dangers and ways to avoid illness are important because longer and more extreme weather is here to stay. Climate change likely means hotter summers, higher frequency of heat waves, and more powerful storms that could knock the electricity out for days.
Dr. John Marshall, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Maimonides Medical Center, says that the best way to deal with the oppressive summer heat is to take the proper precautions.
“The body has a way of keeping itself cool by letting heat escape through the skin, or perspiring,” said Dr. Marshall. “If the body does not cool properly or does not cool enough, the person may suffer a heat-related illness.”
Under some conditions, sweating just isn't enough. A person’s body temperature can rise rapidly, potentially leading to damage of the vital organs. Summertime activity must be balanced with measures that aid the body’s cooling mechanisms and prevent heat-related illness.
Dr. Marshall shared these tips for coping with summer heat safely:
- Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic) regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
- Avoid liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar— these actually cause you to lose more body fluid and can lead to dehydration. Avoid very cold drinks as they can cause stomach cramps.
- Stay indoors, and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat to deflect the sun’s harmful rays.
- Cut down on daily exercise. If you must exercise, remember to rehydrate and drink two to four glasses of cool fluids each hour. Sports beverages can replace the salt and minerals lost in sweat.
- Pay attention to weather reports. You are more at risk as the temperature or humidity rises and when an air pollution alert is in effect.
- Avoid hot foods and heavy meals—they add heat to the body. Eat frozen treats.
- NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
- Develop a neighborhood prevention plan. Identify those without air-conditioning and assign neighbors to check in on those who are at a higher risk of heat-illness.
According to Dr. Marshall, it’s easy for people overlook that they are at risk for heat-illness. Heat acts as an insidious killer. Anyone can be susceptible to a heat-illness, which can become serious or even deadly if left untreated. It’s important to be aware of the increased risk of heat-related illness among seniors, people with chronic physical health conditions or psychiatric disease, and those taking medications that can impair thermoregulation.
If you must be outdoors in the heat:
- Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
- Use sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15. Sunscreen will prevent sunburn, which can limit the skin’s ability to cool itself.
- Take breaks if you are working outdoors.
To get relief from the heat, take a cool shower or move to an air-conditioned area. Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the 90s or above, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. If your home does not have air-conditioning, go to a nearby shopping mall, public library, movie theatre, or any other venue that’s cooler – even a few hours spent in air-conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. You can also call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
If you suspect that someone is suffering from a heat-related illness, call 911 to get medical attention as soon as possible.