Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Doctor's Orders -"Bring on the heat - but not too much!" by Su-Anne M. Hammond, DO

As temperatures start to warm up, people will migrate to outside activities.  Yard work, baseball games, beaches and fun in the sun among the spring and summer activities we jump into after a cold, hard northeastern winter.  The benefits of the sunny, vitamin D, fresh air, and increased physical exercise are instrumental for good physical and mental health, yet come with the risk of over heating and dehydration.

Heat stroke is a condition that can happen when a person’s body gets too hot.  Most often heat stroke happens when people exercise in very hot and humid weather without drinking enough fluids.  When people get hot they can also get “heat cramps” and “heat exhaustion”.  These are not as serious as heat stroke, but can lead to heat stoke if they are not treated properly.

If you or someone you are with develops “heat cramps”, painful muscle cramps or “heat exhaustion” headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting you should cool your body down right away to prevent heat stroke.  Cooling down safely includes moving to a shady or air-conditioned area, drinking water or a sports drink (NOT alcohol or caffeine), remove extra clothing, cold cloth on your neck or a cool (not ice cold) shower.

If your symptoms do not improve or get worse you should seek immediate medical attention. 

Prevent overheating by taking breaks when you exercise or work outside, drink plenty of fluids (especially water or sports drinks), exercise or work early in the day before it gets too hot outside and wear loose light weight clothing.

How much water is enough?  There is no easy or precise answer.  Everyone’s bodies are different (metabolism, activity level, etc).  It is widely accepted to take in a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses of liquids per day, thus with outdoor activity and heat that should be increased.  The best measure of whether you are getting enough fluids is in your urine.  Urine should be a light yellow to clear, if not drink up!

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