Work, exercise, play smart: Avoid heat-related illnesses
August 18, 2011
By Lori Newman
SAN ANTONIO -- As temperatures continue to soar over 100 degrees, San Antonio's sizzling summer heat is affecting people's ability to work, exercise and play the way they normally do.
"Heat-related illness can be avoided if people conduct outdoor activities during the coolest parts of the day," said Capt. Andrew Patterson, chief of Environmental Health Services at Brooke Army Medical Center. "Wear loose woven, light-colored clothing and stay hydrated."
According to National Weather Service forecast data, the hottest part of the day is generally from 4 to 7 p.m. in Texas.
"People also need to be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and what to do when they occur," Patterson said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (http://www.cdc.gov) describes the symptoms and recommended treatment for the following heat-related illnesses:
• Heat Cramps " Symptoms include muscle cramps, pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs. People who experience these symptoms should stop the activity and sit in a cool place. Drink clear juice or a sports beverage or drink water with food. Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside. People with heart problems, on a low-sodium diet or having cramps for more than one hour should seek medical attention.
• Heat Exhaustion " Symptoms include rapid heartbeat, heavy sweating, extreme weakness or fatigue, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, irritability, fast shallow breathing and slightly elevated body temperature. People who suffer heat exhaustion should rest in a cool area, drink plenty of water and take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath.
• Heat Stroke " Symptoms include high body temperature, confusion, loss of coordination, hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, throbbing headache and seizures or coma. To treatment for this serious heat-related illness move the person to a cool, shaded area; remove their excess clothing and apply cool water to their body. If they are able, have them slowly sip water.
"Cooling is the first priority and can reduce mortality," Patterson said.
An important sign of a life-threatening heat-related illness is mental confusion.
To assess this, ask the person questions such as their name, what month and year it is, where they are and what they were doing before becoming ill. If the person cannot answer, call for an emergency medical evacuation or ambulance immediately.
Staying hydrated is important, however hourly fluid intake should not exceed one and a half quarts per hour or 12 quarts per day.
Symptoms of over hydration or water intoxication are confusion, weakness and vomiting.
People who have over-hydrated should restrict their fluid intake and eat something salty such as tomato juice, pretzels or a dill pickle, explained Patterson. "But, medical attention is a must!"
Other less severe heat-related problems include dehydration, heat edema (swelling of the extremities), heat rash and sunburn.
Current Fort Sam Houston weather conditions and the Work/Rest and Water Consumption Table are available at http://samhouston.army.mil/weatherUpdate/FSHWeatherConditions.doc.
The U.S. Army Public Health Command website also offers several useful resource materials on heat injury prevention at http://usaphcapps.amedd.army.mil/hioshoppingcart/.