Expert offers tips on heat-related emergencies
Dr. Kevin Haselhorst, an emergency medicine physician at ’s Arrowhead and West Valley hospitals, answered questions about how to prevent heat-related emergencies.
Question: What can be done to prevent heat-related medical emergencies?
Answer: The high temperatures we experience in Arizona make us vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, so it is important to know how we can protect ourselves. The main thing is to stay hydrated, drinking enough water and wearing appropriate clothing, such as light colored, breathable and loose-fitting clothes. The average person sweats one liter of water per hour, while well-trained athletes can often sweat two liters of water per hour. To stay one step ahead of heat exhaustion, you should have plenty of water on hand, not stored in a backpack or cooler. Drinking plenty of water needs to become a natural reflex, not an afterthought.
Question: What are the early symptoms of heat exhaustion?
Answer: Symptoms of heat exhaustion can escalate from being thirsty, achy and nauseated to becoming weak, confused and vomiting. These symptoms are indicative of heat stroke which is a life-threatening condition. It is important to treat heat exhaustion symptoms immediately by getting out of the heat, drinking plenty of water, and even taking a cool shower or bath. Heat stroke treatment would require a trip to the emergency room.
Question: How can people participate safely in outdoor activities in Arizona’s hot summer?
Answer: Yes, but for shorter duration than in cooler temperatures. The key is to drink plenty of water to replenish hydration lost to sweating and be aware of the symptoms of dehydration. Young children and older adults are especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, as well as those with a variety of health problems including lung, heart and kidney disease and diabetes. By keeping activities in moderation and being in tune with the symptoms of heat exhaustion, we can enjoy outdoor activities and remain healthy at the same time.