Thursday, July 26, 2012

KU Hospital offers tips on dealing with the heat

University of Kansas Hospital

Temperatures holding in the hundreds can take a toll on everyone including office workers as the heat can slowly dehydrate people over several days. 

While certain age groups and people with health conditions are at greatest risk, seemingly healthy people can succumb to heat related illnesses during a heat wave.

“Even folks working in an office can lose fluids slowly over several days in this high heat and not realize it,” Lee Norman, M.D., sr. vice president and chief medical officer said. “The warning signs are more subtle. Sometimes people lose their sense of humor as they slowly dehydrate.  If a family member or friend seems a little grumpy these days, offer them something to drink.”   

Dr. Norman prefers water or sports drinks during a heat wave over carbonated beverages that bloat the stomach making you feel full and caffeinated beverages which act as a diuretic.

“Unless you have heart or kidney conditions which restrict fluid intake, then consistent water consumption is the best prevention against dehydration,” Dr. Norman continued.  “Drink enough to require going to the bathroom every three to four hours and watch to make sure your urine is diluted.  If it’s dark or yellow, you are not drinking enough.” 

Dr. Norman says certain age groups, conditions, medications and circumstances put people at greater risk during a heat wave.

He reminds everyone to check on neighbors frequently, know the warning signs of too much heat exposure and most importantly, take precautions.  Dr. Norman says:

Medications:  Antidepressants, antihistamines and heart medications don’t always mix well with hotter temperatures. People taking these medications can dehydrate more quickly.  Drink plenty of fluids while taking these medications and check with your family physician, if you don’t feel quite like yourself.

Stroke, brain injuries, dementia: Patients who have suffered a stroke, a traumatic brain injury and/or Dementia might not feel the effects of the heat like a healthy person.  Take care they are drinking plenty of fluids and are not overcome by the heat.

Heart Health:  Hotter temperatures put added strain on the heart as it works to keep the body cool.  Overtaxing yourself in the heat can lead to serious heart problems even in seemingly healthy people. Among the early warning signs of overtaxing your heart are dizziness, extreme fatigue, feeling faint and in more serious cases, chest pains.  It is true that the elderly are especially at risk for heart problems during extended hot temperatures and should take precautions to not overexert, keep cool and hydrated.

Asthma, Allergies and COPD: The current heat wave is producing a drier heat than normal for this time of year.  While pollen counts are down, the extreme temperatures still making breathing difficult for people suffering breathing conditions.  Stay indoors in air conditioning as much as possible during the highest heat of the day.

Burns: The potential for severe burns on the feet is very real as the sun heats up concrete and asphalt surfaces to 125 degrees or hotter.  It only takes a few seconds on a hot asphalt sidewalk or playground in bare feet to cause painful first degree burns. Young children are especially susceptible when they run outside barefoot and have nowhere to escape the heat.  Make sure children have proper shoes on to avoid burns.