Four heat waves and counting! This hot weather can cause health issues ranging from irritations to a serious health emergency. In hot weather, some people develop a heat rash secondary to excessive sweating. Common sites for a rash to appear are the neck, upper chest, groin area, under the breasts and in the elbow creases. Usually the treatment is to keep the affected area dry, but as always discuss health concerns and treatments with your doctor or healthcare provider.
We need to constantly be reminded about protecting ourselves during the hotter weather, and also protecting children, the elderly and those in poor health. In an earlier blog, we learned about the dangers of heat exhaustion and in particular heat stroke, which is a medical emergency. Heat exhaustion develops suddenly from exposure to high temperatures and becoming dehydrated. Symptoms include feeling nauseous, dizzy, and weak. The person must get out of the sun and into an air-conditioned room. If that is not possible then seek shade, rest, and drink lots of fluids. If this is not treated it can lead to heat stroke.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. A person’s body temperature rises rapidly and the person does not sweat. Sweating is the body’s air conditioning and when the body’s sweating mechanism fails, the body is unable to cool down. Symptoms include a very high body temperature and red skin, dizziness, nausea and unconsciousness. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately.
Below are some of the things you can do to stay healthy in this heat.
What to wear. Wear lightweight, light colored and loose fitting clothing preferably made of cotton.
Wear sunscreen. About a half-hour before leaving the house apply a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Make sure the sunscreen bottle says “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection”. Reapply it as directed on the bottle. Oh and when you are ready to leave the house, grab your sunglasses and wide-brimmed hat.
Stay hydrated. On the way out, take a bottle of water with you, but be careful that it is not ice cold. Ice cold water can cause stomach cramps for some. Drinking water will help to keep you hydrated. Don’t wait until you get thirsty to drink water. By the time you feel parched, you are already dehydrated. If you are on a fluid restriction or on a diuretic, ask your doctor how much you should drink when the weather is hot. Dehydration occurs from sweating along with losing salt. This causes muscle cramps usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs. If you ever experienced heat cramps you need to speak with your physician especially if you are on a low sodium diet or have a history of heart disease.
Just say no to alcohol. Avoid alcohol, and also caffeine, and sugary drinks as these will only dehydrate you. If you are thinking about drinking those sport drinks, talk with your doctor especially if you are on a low salt diet and or one that calls for fluid restriction.
Know when to go out. Avoid being out in the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun’s strongest rays can damage your skin and it tends to be hotter. Plan your outdoor activities for either the early morning hours or in the late afternoon. If you are going outside during these hours, make it a point to get in the shade and drink water. If you are in the car use the car’s air conditioning.
Keep your home cool. When you are home, use your air conditioner or a fan to stay cool. Your home will stay cooler if you keep the blinds closed to keep the sun out. If you don’t have air conditioning, go to the library, a local senior center or take in a movie. Enjoy the company of friends in a cool place.
Don’t eat too much. Finally, do not consume large quantities of food. Eat small meals, not heavy meals and remember that hot foods add heat to your body.
Courtesy of Kaytie Olshefski, RNC, BS, nursing coordinator of Adult Senior Communities in Monroe Township, on behalf of Saint Peter’s University Hospital. To find a doctor affiliated with Saint Peter’s, visit www.SaintPetersHCS.com/findaphysician/