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Montefiore in the News

July 12, 2011

Exposure to Extreme Temperatures Can Lead to Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

New York City, NY (July 12, 2011) -- Summer is here and the heat is coming on strong. Across the country, temperatures are consistently rising over 90 degrees, and it is critical to stay out of the heat as much as possible. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more people have died from extreme heat over the past 30 years than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined.

In order to stay safe this summer, physicians from Montefiore Medical Center's Emergency Department and the CDC offer tips to help you handle the heat and stay cool over the next couple of months:

Stay Hydrated: Because of excessive sweating, it's crucial to drink lots of fluids, even when you're not feeling thirsty. This means up to two to four glasses of water per hour. While sports drinks can help replace some of the salt lost in sweat, it's important to avoid alcohol and drinks with large amounts of sugar because they can dehydrate you more.

Dress Appropriately: Wear bright clothes that are lightweight and loose-fitting. If you have long hair, keeping it off your neck can help keep your temperature down.

Protect Against the Sun: Wear sunglasses and a large brimmed hat, and apply sunscreen regularly, starting at about 30 minutes before going outside.

Stay Indoors: Ideally, your house will have air conditioning, but if not, take a trip to a mall or library or any public place with air conditioning. It is important to stay in a cool environment during the hottest portion of the day, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Electric fans are nice to keep you comfortable, but they are not as effective when the temperature climbs over 90 degrees. A better alternative would be taking a cool shower. Also, avoid using the stove or oven as much as possible because it makes your house even hotter.

Watch What You Eat: Stay away from spicy foods and don't eat large meals because both make your body hot.

Too Much Sun/Heat Exposure Can Be Life Threatening

A failure to protect yourself against the heat can lead to complications like heat exhaustion, and in some severe cases it can cause heat stroke.

According to the CDC, heat exhaustion is a milder condition that can develop over several days of exposure to the heat and not drinking enough fluids. The symptoms normally consist of:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Nausea

The best way to treat heat exhaustion is by drinking cool, non-alcoholic beverages and taking a cool shower. If heat exhaustion continues, it can lead to heat stroke, which is a severe heat-related illness that occurs when the body temperature increases rapidly and is unable to cool down. Body temperatures can rise over 106° F within a few minutes, and can lead to permanent disability or death if not treated quickly. In addition to the symptoms seen with heat exhaustion, some warning signs of heat stroke are:

  • Body temperatures above 103°F
  • Red, hot and dry skin with no sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Unconsciousness

Check regularly on people close to you (family members, neighbors, co-workers) to make sure they are hydrated and not showing any symptoms. Keep an especially close eye on the elderly because they are sometimes the most susceptible to heat-induced illness.

If you or someone you know starts suffering from any of these symptoms, be sure to contact a medical professional as soon as possible.