How to prevent heat exhaustion, stroke

Mother Nature is making herself felt as a strong high-pressure system settles over the Highland Lakes, sending temperatures into the triple digits.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory until 8 p.m. Sunday, July 12, due to the heat. Highs could hit 105 degrees over the weekend. 

Staying inside is the best way to protect yourself from heat-related illnesses. Capt. Michelle Schwake of Marble Falls Area EMS has additional tips to staying safe and cool.

First, bring water or an electrolyte drink with you and apply sunscreen if you’re going outside.

“Sunburns will dehydrate the body,” Schwake said. 

She also said people should dress for the weather in clothing that won’t trap in body heat. 

“Wear light-colored, lightweight clothing,” she said. “That’s the best type.”

Lightweight materials allow body heat to escape, and light colors reflect sunlight rather than absorb it.

And “take more frequent breaks,” she added. 

“People know to drink six to eight glasses of water a day, but also drink liquids that have electrolytes,” she said. “And alternate between that and water. Make sure you’re replacing electrolytes. Just drinking water won’t get you sodium and potassium.”

Those exercising or working outside should avoid the hottest part of the day.

“Consider running early in the morning or later in the day when it’s cooler and not peak heat,” Schwake said. 

It’s also a good idea to reduce your intake of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages while in the sun or at the lake. If you do partake, she recommends drinking plenty of water or electrolyte beverages in between.

The most common symptoms of heat exhaustion are confusion, dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration), dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pale skin, profuse sweating, and rapid heartbeat. If you experience these symptoms, find air-conditioned shelter or a shady, cool place. To help alleviate these symptoms, take a cool shower or sponge bath. If, after 15 minutes, these measures don’t offer relief, you should seek emergency medical help.

Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can damage the brain and other organs and possibly lead to death. 

Prolonged exposure to heat can cause heat stroke, which is when the body’s temperature is more than 104 degrees and a person experiences complications to the nervous system. 

If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 and then begin cooling the person with ice packs or other methods.

“It’s important to drop that core body temperature,” Schwake said.   

She noted that children, the elderly, and those with chronic health issues should be watched closely in the heat.

“They’re at greater risk,” she said. “Do they need a fan or something to keep cool? We have to take care of one another. We should keep an eye on those close to us and take extra care.”

You can find more information on preventing and identifying heat-related illnesses on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

jfierro@thepicayune.com 

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