High Heat and Humidity - A Double Health Risk

07/11/2011

Heat Yep, Mom Nature is in her kitchen again, serving up another hot and humid summer. No need to remind our Discovery Family that this is the time of year when there is an increased chance for developing a totally preventable medical condition called a heat-related illness. Here are some healthy tips for a safer summer activity schedule for you and your family. 


High Heat and Humidity Health Risks

Heat Index - Check the National Weather Service heat index on a regular basis. This index measures how hot it feels when the humidity is combined WITH the heat. Caution is advised with a heat index greater than 90, and once it hits 100, it moves toward dangerous conditions, especially if you are out in the direct sun, as this can add another 15 degrees to this index.

Medications - Certain antidepressants, antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications in the category of beta blockers, diuretics and herbal preparations like St. John's Wort may affect your body's ability to perspire. This in turn can increase your risk for overheating. As a precaution, please ask your doctor or pharmacist if your medication can put you in this category.

Age - The very young and the elderly are not as efficient in regulating their body temperature, so the high heat and humidity puts them at an increased risk for heat-related illness.

Outdoor workers - If you are in this category make sure you drink enough water and watch your weight by weighing yourself before going to work and upon your return. Many times you will lose water weight after working or exercising in the high heat and humidity, but this may be a sign that the coolant system in your body is running low and the weight loss was from dehydration. Unless you are on a fluid restriction because of a medical condition, it is best to periodically drink water throughout the day, and not just when you are thirsty.


Don't Ignore These Warning Signs

Symptoms of HEAT OVERLOAD:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Extreme or unexplained fatigue
  • Heavy sweating
  • Headache
  • Pale or flushed skin

If you are experiencing one or more of the above symptoms, immediately rest in a cool, shaded place and drink water every 10 to 15 minutes until you start feeling back to normal. If you have been continuously exercising or working in a hot environment for over 60 minutes, a sports drink may be helpful to replace needed electrolytes for your body. You can also apply a cool, wet sponge to your neck, legs, wrists and ankles. Also, please speak with your doctor, especially if you have medical conditions such as diabetes, heart, kidney or lung disease.


Symptoms of HEAT STROKE:

  • Sweating stops and your skin becomes hot, red and dry
  • Fever occurs, sometimes reaching over 106 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Changes in consciousness such as confusion and disorientation
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Fast heart rate

If any of these occur in the high heat and humidity, call 911 as these symptoms spell danger! While awaiting help, please move into a cooler, shaded area while applying cool and damp sheets over the person's body. Do not use rubbing alcohol. Lastly, please be safe and practice weather safety by taking extra safety precautions during the high heat times of the day between 10 AM to 4 PM.

 

More on Summer Safety:

10 Summer Safety Tips for Kids

Summer Exercise Safety

Summer Safety Quiz

 

Photo Source: Thinkstock


Dr. Rob believes in preventative and integrative approaches to medicine. He specializes in family medicine as well as children's health and wellness.
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