Stay Cool this Summer: Heat Can Cause Severe Illness
By: Mark Davis, BS NUT. CPT
In our Summer Issue of FYI Houston I want to talk about heat related illness, and the importance of proper hydration. Friday, June 21st marked the first day of summer and we are already experiencing daytime temperatures in the mid and upper 90’s during the spring. Prolonged exposure to this type of heat, whether working or exercising, may lead to dehydration which can cause heat related injuries. Heat illnesses range in severity and require different methods of treatment. The least severe yet most common heat injury is heat cramps, which are painful muscle contractions. Heat cramps are caused by eliminating the body’s salt and electrolyte levels through excessive sweating. First aid for heat cramps is to remove the victim from the hot area to a cool shady area and slowly administer cool liquids, preferably water or a sports drink.
Another heat related illness is heat exhaustion; it is more serious and requires prompt action to prevent further complications. Heat exhaustion is characterized by a rise in the core temperature of the body up to 104 degrees Celsius. The victim may experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, fainting, weakness, and cold, clammy skin. Treatment for heat exhaustion is to remove the victim from the hot environment into a cool, shady, or air conditioned area and administer cool non alcoholic liquids.
The most severe heat illness is heat stroke which is categorized as a medical emergency that requires immediate medical treatment. Heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature is greater than 104 degrees Celsius and the body has stopped sweating. Heat stroke can lead to brain damage, organ failure, and death if not treated in a timely manner. These heat related illness’ are due to various levels of dehydration and are best prevented through proper hydration and planned breaks from high levels of activity in hot environments. Proper hydration can be attained through adequate consumption of non alcoholic beverages and fruits and vegetables which contain high levels of water. Fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupes, and cucumbers have the highest water content and should be consumed frequently. Water and electrolyte recommendations by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) are as follows;
Men- 1.5 grams/day
Women- 1.5 g/day
These recommendations were set forth in the 2004 edition of the Dietary Reference Intake guide and states that these recommendations help maintain health and reduce risk of chronic disease in most healthy people. The water recommendation includes total fluid consumption including all beverages and foods. Following these recommendations and letting your thirst guide you on water intake can prevent heat related illness this summer. Hydrate or die!!