For Immediate Release July 07, 2019

Christina Butterly

Christina Butterly, CRNP

By: Christina Butterly, CRNP

July is typically the hottest month of the year and along with it comes soaring temperatures and rising humidity. Though we may try our best to stay inside with the air conditioning blasting, the scorching heat is inescapable at times. When you do plan on doing any outdoor activity during the day in the summer you should take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. 

In a ten year span the Centers for Disease Control reported 7,233 heat related deaths throughout the United States. Those most at risk are those over 60 years old, under five years old and those who may not have access to air conditioning. Additionally, if you are new to the area and are not acclimated to the heat and humidity you could face an even higher risk of heat related injury. 

Heat stroke occurs when the body fails to be able to cool itself down.  This usually begins with heat cramps, then escalates to heat exhaustion and eventually leads to a heat stroke if not treated in time. 

Heat exhaustion is presented through symptoms such as muscle cramps, dehydration, fainting, nausea, dizziness, or a headache. A headache is generally the first indication of heat exhaustion. If you have a body temperature higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit you may be experiencing heat stroke and should seek medical treatment. 

There are two types of heat stroke: Exertional and Non-Exertional. 

Exertional occurs when you are outside directly in the heat doing any physical activity and usually affects athletes. With this type of stroke you begin to sweat excessively yet you experience chills on the inside. This is the major indicator that you are having a heat stroke and should call paramedics.

Non-exertional heat stroke can occur if one is sitting in high temperatures for a long period of time, such as a house without air conditioning, and usually is seen in elderly individuals. In this type of heat stroke your body fails to be able to produce sweat and your skin will feel very dry. 
The best way to avoid heat injuries is to avoid intense outdoor activity during the hottest times of day, 12 p.m. through 4 p.m. If you are going to be outside it is imperative to make sure you are fully hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day. Additionally, you should take breaks and rest in a cool place every 30 minutes. Every day you should be mindful of the heat and humidity levels, especially when the humidity is over 60 percent as that causes issues with your body effectively cooling itself through sweating. 

If you think that someone is suffering from a heat stroke, the first thing you should do is call 911. The faster treatment is administered the better the chance of survival. While you are waiting for paramedics to arrive, there are steps you can take to ensure quicker recovery. 

The most important thing is to attempt to lower their body temperature. You can fan their body, bathe them in cold water, or wet them down with a sponge or hose. Placing ice packs on the body in areas where blood vessels are closest to the skin, such as the armpits, groin, neck and back is another way to lower body temperature quickly. 

So beat the heat this summer and don’t let it beat you down.

- Christina Butterly, CRNP is a Nurse Practitioner associated with UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center.