Genesis Health System emergency departments have not seen a noticeable patient increase due to the recent heat wave engulfing the area, and UnityPoint Health said three people this week have been treated for heat-related illnesses.
Here are some essential tips from Genesis Medical Center emergency physician Michael Craddick, D.O., to help people protect themselves from falling victim to the heat.
- Stay out of the heat and direct sunlight when possible. The young and old are particularly vulnerable. People with other chronic conditions, for example, heart disease, mental health conditions, asthma, and high blood pressure, are also at higher risk for heat illnesses.
- Make sure you don’t leave small children or pets in a vehicle. Temperatures can rise quickly to fatal ranges. One tip is to put something vital to your day in the back seat with a child, including a phone, a shoe, or work materials. Newer vehicles now have warnings about checking the back seats.
- Eat smaller meals, but eat more frequently.
- Check on elderly and sick friends, neighbors, and relatives several times a day during a hot spell.
- Drink plenty of water, particularly when exercising or working outdoors. One guideline is 8 ounces of water for every 20 minutes of outdoor activity.
- When possible, complete outdoor work either early in the day or late in the day.
- Take a phone if you walk, jog, or bike ride. If you get into trouble, call for help.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine drinks. Both act as diuretics and speed up the loss of fluid.
- Make sure children take breaks from outdoor activities. Take a break from outside activity during the hottest part of the day to play games or watch a movie together inside.
- Take care of your skin if you are outdoors. Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and wear a wide-brimmed hat. Reapply sunscreen frequently, especially if you are swimming.
- Seek shade or air conditioning if you begin to feel dizzy or nauseous.
- Seek medical treatment immediately if you are disoriented, have a high body temperature, are vomiting, or have stopped sweating.
What to Watch For
Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. If you experience the following symptoms, move to a cooler place, drink water, and use cool, wet cloths, compresses, and fanning. You may also need to seek medical attention:
- Heavy sweating with cool, moist/clammy skin
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Headaches and/or weakness
- Dark urine
Heat stroke is an emergency. If you experience the following: apply cool water to your skin immediately and seek medical help by calling 911 or going to your nearest emergency department.
- High fever (temperature above 104 F)
- Hot, dry, red skin without sweating
- Pounding pulse
- Rapid shallow breathing
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Extreme confusion or dizziness
- Unconsciousness or seizures