Keep Your Cool As Summer Is Here

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Summer has arrived with a sharp blast of heat, and physicians at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are urging the public to take precautions. Corey Slovis, M.D., chairman of VUMC's Department of Emergency Medicine, said prolonged heat day after day can lead to dehydration. Also give some thought of what summer dresses you wear. White color summer dresses may help with summer heat, vs dark color dresses.

"Having several days of high temperatures can lead to dehydration," Slovis said. "We are urging people to get out of the sun." The high temperatures and high humidity create a dangerous scenario for people who work outdoors and those who don't have air conditioning, he said. "When it doesn't cool off at night, people do not have a chance to rehydrate," Slovis said.

The Emergency Department often sees two different types of heat emergencies - heat exhaustion and heat stroke, he said.

Heat exhaustion, which is caused by dehydration, is indicated by headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea and cool, moist skin. Heat stroke, the most serious heat emergency, is indicated by a body temperature over 105 degrees, irrational behavior, extreme confusion, dry, hot and red skin, and rapid, shallow breathing. And as the mercury soars, it's more important than ever to keep a close eye on children, especially when they're playing outside.

"This is the time that we tend to see more heat-induced illnesses because kids are out of school and more active outdoors," said Rebecca Swan, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. The Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt Emergency Department is now seeing several children every day with heat-related complaints. Of particular concern are participants competing in sports and band camps, says Shannon Alley, R.N.

"Kids have their own set of standards that they feel they must push themselves towards in order to look good in front of their teammates and coaches," Alley said. "Unfortunately, these kids either ignore their symptoms in order to push themselves further or they are unaware of them."

Ignoring the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion can cause serious complications, such as cardiovascular disorders, neurological dysfunction, kidney failure or even death, she said. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children can't adjust to summer heat as quickly as adults, and they don't recognize the warning signs of dehydration. Here are the key symptoms to watch for:

* Complaints of a headache

* Feeling tired

* Decreasing bathroom breaks

* Nausea

* Unsteadiness or dizziness

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It's critical that children drink enough liquids in hot temperatures.

"It's important to try to keep children ahead of the potential for dehydration. If your child has a softball game tomorrow, encourage him or her to drink well today. That way, he or she won't be playing catch up tomorrow," Swan said.

Encouraging children to drink frequently during regular outdoor activities is also crucial. The AAP recommends that an 88-pound child drink 5 ounces of cold tap water every 20 minutes. Even if children are playing in the water, they still need to drink, Swan adds. Pools, sprinklers and water parks may feel cooler, but they're no different from other outdoor activities. "If you're out there in the heat, you need to be drinking no matter how comfortable it feels," she said.

The types of beverages to stock up on are far-reaching. "Bottled water, popsicles or fruit pops made of fruit juice - fun snacks that also hydrate - and sport drinks for heavier exercise are the best," Swan said.

Soda, on the other hand, isn't a good choice. In fact, the sugar and caffeine in soda drain the body of water. "Go with water before drinking a Coke," Swan said.

Along with hydration, other precautions can be taken to prevent heat-related illnesses:

* Avoid intense outdoor activity from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the hottest part of the day.

* Rest frequently in the shade when outdoors.

* Wear light-colored and lightweight clothing.

* Cover up -- wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen of 15 SPF or greater.

* Drink even if you don't feel thirsty.

* Stay indoors during extreme heat, using fans and air conditioning to cool the air.

* Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles, even for a short period of time.

* Know how to respond to heat problems. Get an affected person to a cool area out of the direct sunlight, keep them wet with cool water or wet towels, and turn a fan on to help cool the body. If the person quickly feels better, it's likely that no further medical attention is needed. If symptoms persist, see a doctor.

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