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With highs in the 90s, residents of the Gulf Coast need to know the signs of heat illness, how to treat them, and ways to prevent overheating.

Published Jun 15th, 2022

Walker Plash, M.D., an emergency medicine physician with USA Health and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine, explains the signs of heat illness, how to treat them, and ways to prevent overheating this summer.

Heat illness

  • Ranges from cramps to coma
  • Can be from exercise or just being outside in the heat
  • More likely in high-heat, high-humidity environments

Heat exhaustion

  • Thirst, weakness, dizziness, sometimes passing out
  • Body temperature normal or <104
  • Remove from heat
  • Fluids by mouth
    • Consider salty foods or electrolyte-containing fluids
  • Evaporative, convective or conductive cooling
  • Does not need to go to the hospital necessarily
    • Go for confusion, not getting better with shade and cooling, difficulty breathing, chest pain

Heat stroke

  • Temperature >104
  • Seizure, confusion, coma
  • Remove from heat
  • Go to hospital
  • Cold water immersion
  • Can put ice packs on the palms, soles and cheeks

Prevention

  • Avoid things that prevent sweating
    • Allergy medicines
    • Caffeine
    • Alcohol
  • Hydrate
    • Hydrate beforehand
    • Drink to thirst
  • Avoid clothing that prevents sweating or the sweat from being exposed to the air
     
  • Acclimatization period
    • Build up over a week, an hour a day
  • Avoid the hottest parts of the day
     
  • More likely in elderly and very young

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