WESTCHESTER COUNY, N.Y. -- Westchester Medical Center offers health and safety tips as forecasters call for potentially dangerous hot and humid conditions this week.
The warm weather usually means lots of summer fun and outdoor activities. Unfortunately, the combination of high heat and high humidity often become very dangerous. Temperatures for the next few days of this week are expected to be in the upper 90’s with a heat index of over 100 and that can often cause health problems especially in older adults and infants. High temperature and increased humidity can be very dangerous for both of these groups as well as for others who traditionally work outdoors in the element such as Firefighters, Police Officers, Sanitation workers and road crews.
“One or two days of extremely high temperatures and humidity are usually not a problem for most healthy people if they are careful to replace fluid losses and minimize their exposure,” said Dr. Ivan Miller, Director of the Emergency Department at Westchester Medical Center. “However, when the temperatures and humidity remain that high for three or four days or more, that’s when we could begin to see the potential for a spike in Emergency Department visits by people suffering from heat related illnesses.”
Westchester Medical Center wants to remind everyone of the potential dangers associated with the hot weather. “Staying hydrated is extremely important especially on days when both the heat and humidity are high. Everyone, especially those predisposed to heat related illnesses, should drink plenty of fluids, before, during and after any outdoor activities,” added Dr. Miller. “Anyone who will be spending time outdoors or in a hot indoor environment over the next few days or at any other time this summer, should be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with heat related illness. If you think you may be suffering from the effects of the heat, remove yourself from the element, cool off and seek medical attention.”
Who is most susceptible to heat related emergencies?
- Very old - May be unaware of their limitations. Due to limited mobility may be forced to spend too much time exposed to as a result of slow ambulation. With advanced age, the kidneys lose some of their ability to conserve fluids and salts.
- Very young - Thermo-regulatory system still immature, body may not be able to cool itself off naturally.
- Infirmed - May not be able to get out of heat source on their own power. Asthma patients who forget to take their medication out with them.
- People who work out of doors in the element such as Firefighters, Police Officers, EMT’s, Sanitation workers, road crews.
Hot weather tips:
- Wear breathable, lightweight, light colored clothing.
- Limit your exposure to the heat and the sun and to places without proper ventilation.
- Know your limitations. This may not be week to begin your new outdoor exercise program. Limit exercise and outdoor activities to cooler periods early in the day or later in the evening.
- Check on the elderly.
- Unless specifically directed by your doctor otherwise, drink plenty of fluids, preferably water (sports drinks are O.K.), before, during and after any outdoor activity. Avoid alcoholic beverages, although quite refreshing, they can have an adverse affect on your bodies ability to regulate heat. Alcohol and caffeine stimulate fluid loss through the kidneys. Most of all hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate.
- If you can, go to the beach or to locations that are traditionally cool such as a community pool, a movie theater or a mall or bowling alley.
- Heat cramps - Occurs as a result of excessive loss of sodium and other electrolytes, as the body looks for additional resources to cool down. Signs and symptoms include cramping of abdominal muscles and the muscle of the arms and legs. Self-correcting once hydrated and removed from the heat source.
- Heat exhaustion - Commonly seen in people who are out in the element for an extended period of time, not life threatening and self-correcting once hydrated and removed from the heat source. Signs and symptoms include perfuse sweating and nausea possibly with cramps of the long bone muscles. If left uncorrected may lead to heat stroke. Can also occur indoors in poorly ventilated areas, such as homes and apartments with all of the windows closed.
- Heat Stroke - Most serious and seen in people who have suffered from untreated heat exhaustion. Body loses its ability to cool itself down and body temperatures begin to soar (have been known to go as high as 105 -106 degrees). Heat stroke can lead to seizures or even death if untreated. Emergency treatment at the closest emergency department is critical.
Patients who have been diagnosed with Asthma need to carry their prescribed inhaler with them at all times. Most calls to 911 for Asthma patients during the summer months are for patients who do not have their medications with them.