Health Risks that Come with Heat
Southern New Mexico is a high-risk area for extreme heat, especially in the summertime. While many of our residents think they’re “used to” the heat, the truth is that we can all feel the effects of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, both of which are very serious matters. Heat exhaustion means sweating, muscle cramps, fatigue and dizziness because of prolonged exposure to heat and dehydration.
Heat stroke is a lot more serious, which is a fever of over 104 degrees and “changes in mental status ranging from personality changes to confusion.” The body also loses is ability to sweat which is how it cools itself down.
While the elderly and very young are at a particular risk, extreme temperatures can affect anyone. The Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the following:
- Stay cool indoors; do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device
- Drink more water than usual
- Avoid alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar (like soda and some juices)
- Replace salt and minerals frequently (replenish in your diet)
- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing
- Schedule outdoor activities carefully (at dusk or night, or swimming)
- Pace yourself
- Monitor the elderly and very young
- Do not leave children or pets in cars
Many think that cracking a window and leaving a child or pet in a car to “run a quick errand” is okay. It’s not. “Studies show the practice of leaving a vehicle window partially open, or “cracked,” has little effect on decreasing temperature inside.” Whoever’s trapped inside can be seriously injured or even die within as little as 10 to 30 minutes.
The article from NMTracking.org suggests spending a day at the local public library (many have summer programs for children), a museum, or a community center to take advantage of their air conditioning and avoid spending too much time outside. Senior citizens are encouraged to join a local senior center. The article gave a phone number to call for senior services in the community (800-432-2080).
Does your job require you to work outside? Make sure you stay hydrated, and schedule your day so you alternate work with a lot of rest.
Sometimes the temperature gets so high that staying inside by itself isn’t enough. Covering the windows can help block some of the sun’s head. Also, try to avoid swamp coolers. While these may work, it doesn’t filter the air from outside, so on certain days, smoke and other inhalants can be circulated into your home and affect your respiratory health. Invest in an air conditioner, or contact your local government to see if your community offers any “cooling centers,” a great place for activities and socializing in a cool area.
If someone around you may be suffering from heat stroke…
- Call 911
- Get them out of the sun immediately
- Cover them with a damp sheet or spray them with cool water
- Fan them
- Help them drink cool water if they are able
Now that we are moving away from the summer months, we won't have to worry about all of these health risks as much, but it's good to be aware nonetheless. Here at Carlsbad Open MRI, we're always trying to keep our patients educated so that they can feel in control of their health.