|PHOTO: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR BODY
CAN'T STAY COOL?
During very hot weather, it's important to recognize the signs of heat stroke, a condition where your body is unable to regulate its temperature and cool itself. In fact, heat stroke deaths are more common than deaths from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined. Taking the proper precautions when it's hot can keep you healthy and out of the emergency department.
What happens when your body can't stay cool?
"Normally, your body cools itself by sweating, but in some conditions when heat and humidity are excessively high, sweating isn't enough," says Dr. Tom Scaletta, Medical Director, Edward Hospital Emergency Department. "When your body reaches extreme temperatures, your brain and other vital organs can't function properly. And, when it's humid, sweat doesn't evaporate as quickly, so your body can't cool down that way."
That can lead to heat stroke, which is indicated by these symptoms:
- Confusion or dizziness
- Nausea or throbbing headache
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Extremely high body temperature
- Red, hot and dry skin
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or a loved one, call 911 immediately. In the meantime, get out of the sun and begin cooling down by either immersing yourself in a tub of water, taking a cold shower, spraying yourself with cool water from a garden hose or by wrapping your body in a cool, wet sheet.
To prevent heat stroke, follow these simple tips on staying cool:
- Limit yourself. Be careful not to do too much outside on hot days. If you have to be outdoors, try to schedule your activities in the morning or evening hours when it's cooler.
- Drink enough water. Most doctors recommend drinking eight or more glasses of water a day during normal weather conditions and twice that during hot spells.
- Avoid caffeine (contained in many energy drinks) or alcohol, which act as a diuretic, causing dehydration.
- Stay inside. If you're indoors, use an air conditioner on excessively hot days. If you don't have an air conditioner, try to stay on the lowest floor out of the sun. Dress in lightweight and light-colored clothing to help stay cool.
- Replace electrolytes. Sweating removes salt and other minerals from your body. A sports drink can replace nutrients lost during sweating.
In addition to taking care of yourself, remember to check on loved ones and neighbors in extreme heat. This includes infants, children, the elderly, and people who are obese or physically sick, all of whose bodies are less tolerant of heat and dehydration.
Should you or your family need emergency care this summer, visit one of Edward's Emergency Departments in Naperville or Plainfield. Check our wait times here, text "ERwait" to 41411, or download our ER Wait Times app for iPhone.
Sources: CDC.gov, RedCross.org