Dueling heat waves off the east and west coasts of the United States have left millions of people cooking in the oven at record temperatures and exposed to possible damage from heat-related illnesses.
Avoid heat exhaustion and sunstroke, Robert M. Baginski, an emergency physician and associate professor at the Bouvé College of Health Sciences in the northeast, recommends that people stay hydrated, stay in the shade, and be alert for warning signs of a more serious illness.
And, if extreme temperatures like those in the United States become a more common symptom of climate change, it will be necessary to re-imagine the public. Health Neil Maniar, practice professor and director of the Master of Public Health program in Urban Health in the Northeast, explains Neil Maniar, a response from one of the mitigation of the crisis to one of broad structural changes.
What are some of the symptoms of heat-related illnesses that people need to consider?
BAGINSKI: I’m glad you called it a “heat-related illness,” because we usually think in terms of heat exhaustion or sunstroke, but in reality, these things are a spectrum. From a medical perspective, heat exhaustion is when you do not feel well from the heat and stroke is a medical condition.
Some of the first signs of heat exhaustion usually occur when someone is outside, perhaps working in the heat, and include heavy sweating, being very thirsty, muscle aches and headaches, and sometimes even nausea and vomiting. Your skin will be hot, flushed and wet with sweat.
What should someone who has these symptoms do?
BAGINSKI: You want to go inside or enter a cool shaded area outside to rest, rehydrate, and apply cool compresses, such as ice packs under your armpits or at the back of your neck. Patients recover quite easily from heat exhaustion, usually within half an hour.
What you need to remember is that heat exhaustion is reversible, but it starts to get worse as you head towards the sunshine.
What are the symptoms of stroke?
BAGINSKI: They are largely similar to the ones I mentioned, but with some key differences: the skin will no longer sweat, but will feel hot and dry as the body stops sweating to conserve water.
And the defining sign of insolation is that you will begin to change your mental state, confusing and disorienting yourself and, in very severe cases, loss of consciousness.
There is also a medical definition for sunstroke: the central body temperature begins to rise as if it had a fever, up to 102 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a very serious sign for sunstroke, and this is the territory of the 911 call, which means getting to the nearest emergency service.
I see. What happens to your body during a stroke?
BAGINSKI: The body warms up, but without fever, which makes a significant difference. Fever is an internal signal of the brain that restores the fixed point of the body to a higher temperature to fight an infection of some kind.
Stroke is a rise in temperature without brain signals. It’s like putting a steak in the oven; the fillet does not change; everything is hot.
You start to dehydrate because you lose a lot of water from breathing and sweating. And once dehydrated, the body will stop removing sweat to conserve water, but this makes the problem worse because heat cannot now evaporate through sweat. It is a vicious cycle.
As people spend their days during this heat wave, what should they do to stay cool and avoid some of these serious health conditions?
BAGINSKI: Tip number 1 is to always stay hydrated. And you’ll hear all sorts of health or fitness experts say adults should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but there’s no real science behind it.
The best advice is: if you are thirsty, drink some water. A good way to track water intake is to control urine: most people urinate seven to nine times a day and the urine should be a light or light yellow color. If you use the bathroom significantly less or your urine starts to get a darker color, this indicates that you should drink more water.
When you go outside when it’s hot, you should consciously drink more water than you would on a regular day. I usually recommend patients to stay with a bottle of water nearby and occasionally.
Also, avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
If you can’t avoid being in the sun, you can wet a piece of clothing or a towel to sneak around your neck, which will help you with the evaporative cooling that your body does naturally.
Frozen peas or corn or a packet of ice placed under your arms, at the base of your neck or near your groin can also help: these are areas of the body that contain many blood vessels and ice packs help. to cool the blood as it recirculates.
And of course, if you’re out, don’t forget about sunscreen.
So we talked about some of the steps people can take to stay fresh. What about public health measures to keep a community safe during a heat wave?
HANDLING: Extreme heat is certainly a major public health issue: From a public health perspective in general, it’s very important that people know what to do to stay safe.
For example, there are certain populations, including young children and the elderly, who are most at risk for poor results during a heat wave. Therefore, it is important to ensure that schools and care homes have air conditioning and that community cooling centers are available.
The built environment can also have an effect: people living in densely populated areas or in buildings that do not have air conditioning are more at risk. So are people who work outside, such as landscapers, roofers, and construction workers.
Are there other structural changes that can help mitigate public health risks?
HANDLE: Absolutely. If we only think of this as a heat wave, we are thinking of the steps we can take to keep people safe for three or four days. heat. But like these extreme temperatures more and more often, we need to think about how we invest in infrastructure to meet people’s long-term needs.
Binding it as a public health problem gives us the opportunity to think about the policies needed to address these issues: what we need to change or develop to address not only the root causes of these extreme weather events, but also to ensure we that during these events, people and communities have what they need to stay safe.
If you have to walk five blocks to the grocery store or your health care provider because there is no public transportation, this becomes much more dangerous during a heat wave.
Public health includes housing, transportation, education, economic investment, jobs, anything that can make the experience of a heat wave much more tolerable or much worse.
Citation: Wondering how to stay cool in a heat wave? This is what the experts say. (2021, June 30), retrieved June 30, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-cool-heatwave-experts.html
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