Clinical Q&A - Summer Heat
Staying Cool when the Temperature is High
Liudvikas Jagminas, MD, Chief, Emergency Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth
Living in New England, we normally can’t wait to embrace the warm weather in summertime. We also know that when it gets hot and humid outside, it can get uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.
Sometimes when you are exposed to extreme heat and sun for an extended period of time, you run the risk of developing a heat illness. This is especially true for a child or older adult, someone who is ill, an individual who is obese or someone participating in a physical activity, as they are more likely to feel the effects of the heat sooner than others. We asked Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth Emergency Department Medical Director, Dr. Liudvikas Jagminas, to share tips on keeping yourself safe during hot, humid weather.
Q: How do I know if I am suffering from heat illness?
When you are exposed to heat and begin to suffer from heat illness, early symptoms may include muscle cramps, heavy sweating, fatigue and thirst. These are known as heat cramps and are the first symptoms of heat illness. Heat exhaustion occurs later and symptoms of this include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea and vomiting or dark urine.
The final stage of heat illness is known as heat stroke. Call 911 if you or a family member is experiencing symptoms such as fever, irrational behavior, extreme confusion, dry, hot and red skin, rapid/shallow breathing, rapid/weak pulse, seizures, and/or unconsciousness.
Q: Who is most susceptible to suffering from heat illness?
Infants and young children are sensitive to hot, humid conditions. They rely on their caretakers to regulate their environment and to keep them hydrated. Adults ages 65 years and older are less likely to sense a change in temperature. Individuals who are overweight tend to retain more body heat, making them more susceptible to heat illness. Monitor these individuals carefully and watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
*Never leave infants or children in a parked car during extreme heat conditions.
Q: How is heat illness prevented?
Air-conditioning is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from heat illness when it is extremely hot and humid outside. Prepare ahead of time by listening to or watching local news and weather conditions where you live. Drinking cool, nonalcoholic beverages will keep you hydrated and regulate your body temperature. Lastly, if you must go outside, dress appropriately for the heat. Where lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and apply sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher to protect your skin from sunburn.
Get help, fast. BID-Plymouth’s Emergency Department is at the ready 24/7 to help you handle summer’s hazards. Contact the Emergency Department at (508) 830-2800 or visit www.bidplymouth.org.