Wednesday , June 18, 2014 - 10:02 AM
The heat of late summer and early autumn can lead to a number of health problems including dehydration and heat stroke, but with a little planning and common sense, you can stay cool and protect yourself as the mercury continues to rise.
"We need to remember we live in a desert," said Ogden Regional Medical Center trauma services director, Deanna Wolfe. "We can forget this because we get snow and see beautiful mountains but we have a very dry climate and that means we need to drink an adequate amount of water."
Water is crucial to survival, Wolfe said, and when the weather is scorching hot, your body loses water faster, so it's critical to drink plenty of water to keep from dehydrating.
"A rule of thumb is to drink eight 8 ounce glasses of water a day. Soda pop and coffee and caffeinated tea do not count as water. In fact, all three are diuretics which means they make you lose water so if you are drinking those beverages, you will need more than eight glasses."
Wolfe said that amount of water may sound like a lot but it's really not.
"You will feel much better, it will help you lose weight if you are trying, your organs will work more efficiently, you skin will not be as dry," she said. "There are so many benefits to being adequately hydrated. You will urinate more during the first three days but then your body will adjust."
Kathy Calton, McKay-Dee Hospital emergency department manager, said the symptoms of dehydration include decreased energy, lack of sweat, dry mouth, thirst, dizziness or light headedness, headache, confusion, increase heart rate, dark colored urine and decreased urine.
Sunstroke, also known as heatstroke can occur as you become dehydrated and your body loses the ability to cool itself down. Symptoms include headache, cramping muscles, elevated body temperature, nausea or vomiting, racing heart beat, fast breathing, flushed skin, confusion or unconsciousness.
Left untreated, Calton said dehydration and heatstroke can both be dangerous and can lead to organ failure and even death.
"These are more than just a complaint about being hot," she said. "You really don't feel well, nor do you look well."
Wolfe and Calton said if a person gets confused, they may not recognize the symptoms and can get into a dangerous situation and not realize it.
"Your body is a well oiled machine and will work to keep things at normal until it can't compensate anymore," Calton said. "At that point you can have an electrolyte imbalance. No urine production can contribute to kidney damage , internal organs including your brain will swell, grabbing onto what fluid is available and not letting it go which can lead to brain and organ damage."
This can progress to shock, which can cause the body to completely shut down completely, Calton said.
If you are with someone experiencing any symptoms, get them to a cool place and offer water. If they are confused, seek immediate medical attention. You can also offer electrolyte replacement drinks such as Gatorade.
In addition to drinking more water during the heat of the summer, Wolfe and Calton said to wear loose fitting and light weight clothing, even clothing with SPF ratings. Also, wear a hat.
"Wear light colored clothing when out in the sun," Calton said. "Light colors reflect heat and dark colors absorb heat."
Wolfe also suggested doing yard work in the morning or evening hours and work in the shade when possible. The hottest part of the day during the summer months, she said, is around 4 p.m. Don't forget to take frequent breaks to drink water.
"First and foremost is to drink enough and be sensible in while in the heat. Don’t over exert. Rest often. Sit in front of a fan with your hair wet if needed to help cool down," Wolfe said.
Another important thing to remember is to keep your children and pets out of the heat. Don't leave anyone sitting in a parked car and don't exercise outside during the heat of the day.
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