Archive for Thursday, August 3, 2000

Heeding the warning of August’s wrath

August 3, 2000

The hottest months of the year are upon us and that could mean trouble for residents who spend too much time outdoors.

Dr. Carl Inzerillo of DeSoto Family Practice medical center said with temperatures nearing the 100-degree mark, it could take less than an hour for some residents to be overcome by the heat.

Whether working in the yard or merely sitting in the sun, Inzerillo said people need to remember to drink plenty of fluids while out in the heat. Those who do not could develop heat exhaustion or, in severe cases, heat stroke. If not treated properly, heat stroke could be fatal.

"Heat exhaustion can come on very slowly. It can be very subtle because it has a cumulative effect," he said. "Some signs of heat exhaustion would be dizziness, lightheadedness, increased thirst or the inability to urinate."

Victims of heat stroke on the other hand can become confused, delirious or unconscious. In some instances, the core temperature of the body can rise to 106 or 107 degrees, Inzerillo explained.

The best way to avoid both conditions is to limit the amount of time spent in the heat, he said. He also advises people to drink plenty of water or sports drinks.

Many people don't realize that some drinks can actually add to the problem, he said.

"You should not drink alcohol if you're going to be in the heat," he said. "Alcohol is a diuretic and actually dehydrates your body."

High humidity adds to the risk of developing heat-related problems, Inzerillo said.

"When it's humid out the body sweats but the sweat has no place to go," he said. "It just stays on the skin and gets hot, making the person's core temperature get even higher."

The doctor recommends drinking a pint to a quart of water an hour when working in the heat. An even better plan, he said, would be to do yard work early in the morning or late in the evening. For those who have to be outside, Inzerillo recommends working in shifts of 15 or 20 minutes.

"Of course your body can become conditioned to stand more," he said. "Construction workers or people who work outside all the time can handle it better than most."

The heat can be especially tough on older residents.

"As you get older, some skin integrity is lost and the blood is closer to the surface of the skin," he said. "Heat also makes your heart work harder, which can create problems for some older people."

Those who experience symptoms of heat stroke or heat exhaustion should seek shade, splash water on the skin and drink cool fluids, Inzerillo suggested. If the symptoms persist, they should contact a doctor immediately, he added.

The American Cancer Society also advises people to use protective sunscreen while outdoors in the summer. The sunscreen should be applied to the skin 20 to 30 minutes before going into the sun to allow it time to absorb into the skin.

The organization recommends using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

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