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Health Q&A

Posted August 15, 2012 in Advice Column

Q: How can I avoid heat-related illness in summer?

A: In the heat we have been experiencing lately, heat-related illnesses such as dehydration, heat rash, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke become a concern.

Sweating is the body’s mechanism to maintain the proper body temperature. When the body is not able to meet its need to cool itself, then we see heat-related illnesses. Ways to prevent overheating are to avoid direct sunlight, increase fluid intake of non-caffeinated, nonalcoholic drinks before and during the time you are exposed to the heat, wear loose clothing, limit time and activity level in the heat and take a cool shower or bath. Signs of heat exhaustion include increased thirst, confusion, dizziness, headache, fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, pale skin, profuse sweating, low grade fever and a rapid heartbeat. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, it is your body’s warning to initiate steps to cool down. This can be accomplished by stopping the activity you are involved in, moving into a cooler environment and rehydrating your body with water or sports drinks. Again, it is important to avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks. If the body does not respond to these warning signals, it can progress to a life-threatening condition in which a fever can be greater than 106, confusion, seizures or coma, and the body is unable to sweat. This requires immediate medical intervention with intravenous fluids and a cooling blanket to stop the progression of heat stroke. Heed your body’s signals and stay safe in the heat this summer.

Information provided by Kelly Dodge, health care coordinator, Windsor Manor,  1401 Wall St., Webster City, 515-832-1188.

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