Local Doctors Warn About Dangerous Temperatures
The forecast through Tuesday, June 8th includes temperatures reaching close to 100 degrees. Area physicians warn that these temperatures, especially without a gradual increase in temperatures allowing our bodies to acclimate, can lead to dangerous conditions such as heatstroke or heat exhaustion.
Dr. Alex Harsha of Lakewood Health System said, “I think younger people – particularly people who do outdoor labor – often will underestimate how dehydrated that they might get or underestimate how quickly they might start to feel ill if they kind of push through when they’re feeling a little bit unwell.”
“When you start to feel significantly unwell with dizziness, cramps, abdominal nausea, abdominal discomfort or if you’re very lightheaded – if you’re not able to get yourself into a cooler area quickly – things could rapidly get worse,” Dr. Harsha said.
Dr. Tony Hamilton of Essentia Health said, “We’re used to colder weather, we’re not used to temperatures and abrupt changes into the 90s and even 100 here….We do gradually get used to it as we get those temperature changes, but we don’t acclimate to it quickly. It takes days or weeks sometimes to really get into that.”
Dr. Hamilton stated, “We see a lot of construction workers come in with heat-induced complaints – dehydration, electrolyte imbalance – overheated. The other folks we see on a frequent basis are people who are alcoholics, drug abusers. Their system is already stressed.”
Last year, there were at least 100 patients treated for heat-related illnesses over the summer at Essentia Health-St. Joseph emergency room, but that was an abnormal year, as many outdoor events were canceled due to the pandemic, according to Essentia Health. Data from years before show that during a typical summer, Essentia Health-St. Joseph would see about double that number.
“One of the things we tell people is to stay hydrated, there is no substitute for water. Water doesn’t have electrolytes, so quite often for people who are really out there sweating, I tell them to get a sports drink…For every glass of sports drink, you need a glass of water or two glasses of water,” Dr. Hamilton said.
Older adults do not adjust as well as the younger population to drastic temperature changes, according to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and seniors are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat. Dr. Harsha states, “People who are exerting themselves in really hot weather are at risk. But elderly people, during extreme events like when we have multiple days in a row of very warm temperatures – particularly very humid temperatures – elderly folks will be more at risk…Elderly people who are living alone may get a little bit confused if they get dehydrated or hot and then that kind of progressively leads to worsening situations because they’re not able to respond to their own symptoms.”
The CDC lists the following signs and symptoms for heatstroke: high body temperature (above 103 degrees); red, hot, dry skin (no sweating); rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; upset stomach; confusion; and passing out. “Heatstroke is a temp of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher due to exposure to heat and is associated with confusion or loss of consciousness, lack of sweating and sometimes seizures,” Dr. Harsha said.
The CDC lists the following signs and symptoms for heat exhaustion: heavy sweating; paleness; muscle cramps; tiredness; weakness; dizziness; headache; upset stomach or vomiting; and fainting.
To stay cool and safe this summer, follow these tips:
Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If your home doesn’t have air-conditioning, contact the local health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in the area.
Do not rely on a fan as a main cooling source when it’s really hot outside.
Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until thirsty to drink.
If a doctor limits the amount of fluids you drink or has you on water pills, ask them how much to drink during hot weather.
Don’t use the stove or oven to cook – it will make the house hotter.
Wear loose, lightweight, light colored clothing.
Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
Do not engage in very strenuous activities and get plenty of rest.
Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.