As high heat and humidity scorch the country, emergency physicians are sending out their annual alarm about the dangers of dehydration and heat illness. Every year hundreds of people across the country die as a result of heat-related-causes, but the good news is that education may be the key to saving lives. Every summer the number of heat-related emergency visits soars because people don’t recognize the seriousness of symptoms caused by heat. All of us need to be careful, especially children and the elderly; dehydration and heat illness can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and in some circumstances, the heat can kill.
Heat-related illnesses are 100% preventable. Research shows that many of us simply don’t drink enough, especially when active in the heat, which explains why many heat-related problems like dehydration occur.
Some additional tips to prevent dehydration and other heat-related illnesses include:
Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol – these fluids dehydrate the body rather than hydrate like water and sports drinks
Avoid carbonated beverages, which can cause bloating and keep you from drinking enough fluid to rehydrate
Wear light colored, absorbent, loose fitting clothing
Stay in cool, shaded areas when possible, protect your skin with sun block
For most people, simply being aware and being prepared is one of the best ways to prevent illness or injury. For example, did you know that in hot and humid conditions, an active person can become dehydrated in just 15 minutes? As little as 1.3 pounds of fluid loss for a 130 pound person can lead to early fatigue and increase the risk of dehydration.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
Dry lips and tongue
Apathy and lack of energy
Bright-colored or dark urine
If left untreated dehydration can escalate to heat exhaustion or heat stroke that can be deadly.
The main symptoms for these include:
Nausea or vomiting
Rapid and shallow breathing
Rapid heart beat
Decreased alertness or complete loss of consciousness
If you experience any of these symptoms, doctors say stop activity immediately and cool down in the shade or an air-conditioned building. Most importantly, when you’re active, drink plenty of fluids to help quickly replenish what you’ve lost through sweat. It’s o.k. to have a little fun in the sun, but just be safe while doing it.