Palmetto Health provides tips to help the community prevent heat-related illnesses this summer

Posted on 6/28/2018

The sun is out and we are enjoying the nice long days of summer. With temperatures already in the 90s and continuing to rise, the excessive heat can also bring along the risk of heat-related illness. Emergency medicine physician and Palmetto Health’s medical director of Emergency Management, Steve Shelton, M.D., offers tips on how to handle the heat and protect yourself and your loved ones.

While no one is immune to the summer heat, several groups are at increased risk of heat injuries including:

  • Babies and toddlers
  • Older adults 
  • Overweight individuals
  • Those who have chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure and diabetes

Shelton says, “Once you reach a point of thirst, you are already dehydrated.” He says that dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, which is a heat-related illness. 

Use these tips to prevent a heat-induced illness:

  • Stay inside during the hottest part of the day—mid-to-late afternoon
  • Use air conditioning 
  • If you have to be outside, take frequent breaks in the shade to cool off
  • Hydrate with cold non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages, a mix of water and sports drinks is recommended
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made out of a thin material 
  • Wide brim hats help provide shade 
  • If outside, use sunscreen to prevent sunburn and the potential risk of skin cancer
  • Since automobiles intensify heat, even with the windows cracked, never leave individuals inside vehicles, especially not vulnerable individuals such as children, elderly or disabled individuals and pets

Shelton offers these warning signs of heat exhaustion:

  • Cool, clammy skin 
  • Nausea
  • Overall feeling of weakness 
  • Lightheaded

If you or someone around you is suffering from heat exhaustion, there are a few things you can do to help. Shelton says, “Begin treating the person by taking them inside for some air conditioning or put them in the shade, remove any clothing you are able to remove, hydrate them with water or a sports drink.” He recommends that you monitor them closely and if their symptoms persist after one hour to seek medical attention.

Shelton adds, “Heat exhaustion can progress into a heat stroke.” He says many of the symptoms are the same symptoms as heat exhaustion except skin will be dry. He also says that the worst of the heat stroke symptoms are confusion and an altered mental state and says these individuals need to seek immediate medical attention.

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