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Prevent summer's heat-related illnesses

May 17, 2019

Summer heat has settled in. What can I do to help prevent heat-related illness?

"The warning signs of heat-related illness include fatigue, headache, dizziness, mental confusion, muscle cramps, rapid breathing, nausea and vomiting," says Courtney Sutherland, M.D., a board-certified physician specializing in Family Medicine at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.

Heat stroke - abnormally elevated body temperature - most commonly occurs when people are engaging in outdoor activities on hot, humid days.

"To prevent heat stroke, avoid outside physical exertion during the hottest times of the day, usually between 2 and 5 p.m.," she advises. "If you must be outdoors, wear light, loose-fitting clothing, stay hydrated with water and avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages which dehydrate you."

Dr. Sutherland says that a classic heat stroke is more common in the elderly, but can also occur in the young and healthy, and even in infants.

"If you have elderly neighbors or family members, check on them during the day for signs of heat-related illness," she says. "Make sure they have access to electric fans. If it's particularly hot, transport them to an air-conditioned location.

"Should someone show signs of heat illness, get them to a cooler environment, moisten their skin with lukewarm water, fan them and call 911 for assistance," she advises.

"Heat stroke is a true medical emergency requiring immediate attention. Left untreated, it can result in permanent disabilities or death," concludes Dr. Sutherland.

Headshot of Courtney Sutherland, MD, Family Medicine specialist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.

About the Author

Dr. Courtney Sutherland is a Family Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold. "I believe that patient education is essential in the treatment of any condition. I also believe that prevention can play a key role in future health."

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