Avoiding Heat Related Illnesses

The hot summer temperatures across the country are causing heat related illnesses.  Patients are visiting their doctors, urgent care centers and emergency rooms with symptoms related to the heat.   Here is information  shared on WJXX/WTLV-TV First Coast Action News during the evening news segment  8/9/2013 for the story “Avoiding Heat Related Illnesses”.

Question: “What are the main things people need to know about heat safety?”

Under normal conditions, the body adjusts to the heat.  Sometimes not so well if exposed to high temperatures, heavy sweating or not drinking enough fluid.  There are 3 levels of heat illnesses  people should know about.

  • Heat cramps –  Painful cramps usually in the calves, thighs or abdominal areas.
  • Heat exhaustion – May experience headache, weakness, cold, nausea, vomiting, feeling faint and temperature may go up to 104 degrees.
  • Heat stroke – May experience confusion, stop sweating and temperature over 104 degrees.  This is life threatening and the person needs medical attention immediately.

One of the keys to preventing heat illness is to avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of  fluids.  On a normal day, for most people it is recommended to drink 8 glasses of fluid such as water, fruit or vegetable juice.  There are about 2 glasses work in a typical 16.9 ounce water bottle so that would be about 4 bottles a day.  On a day with higher temperatures, when exercising or working outdoors in the heat, experts recommend drinking 24 ounces – about 1 1/2 water bottle equivalent- two hours before exercise, another 8 ounces (1/2 bottle) before and then 8 ounces every 20 minutes during exercise – regardless if feeling thirsty.

Question: ” Soon kids will be back playing after school sports… what do parents need to know?”

Parents can help their kids by educating them on how to avoid dehydration.  It may take some time for the child to acclimate to the heat.  It  is  important to encourage plenty of  fluids before, during and after practice.  Teach how to hydrate properly and what the signs and symptoms are of dehydration.  The symptoms can include thirst, dry mouth, feeling tired, headache, cramps and dizziness.  Parents should also encourage children not to be embarrassed to let their coach or other  adult know that they need to get something to drink or are not feeling well.

Sources: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dehydration/SM00037  http://firstaid.webmd.com/understanding-heat-related-illness-basics

When To Go To The Emergency Room or Urgent Care

When to go to the emergency room or the urgent care can save precious time and money.  Emergency rooms have access to the equipment and are staffed for life threatening emergencies such as chest pain, severe trauma, shock and head injuries.  Urgent care centers are an excellent option for conditions such as minor injuries, fractures, mile asthma or rashes.  If an urgent care is unable to handle the acuity of a condition, they will direct to the nearest emergency facility.

Having a plan ahead of time can help.  Know where the nearest emergency facility is and how to get there.  Doing some research on an urgent care ahead of time can help before illness or injury strikes.  Become familiar with the services that are offered, if it is staffed with physicians or mid-level providers, what are the hours of operation and what type of equipment is available.  Bookmark the website, keep the phone number handy and know where it is located.  Maybe a visit ahead of time to meet the staff and see how it operates can help in feeling comfortable in what to do in certain situations.

The National Association for Ambulatory Care provides the following information about emergency rooms and urgent care centers in their article, “Where do I go? The Emergency Room? Or an Urgent Care Center?”

When you have a life-threatening situation, such as chest pain, or a sudden and severe pain, the emergency department of the nearest hospital is the only option.  If you went to an urgent care clinic, they’d just send you on to the ER in an ambulance.  But if your condition is less serious, but still requires immediate attention, choosing an urgent care facility can save you loads of time and money, as well as keeping the emergency room free to handle more serious situations.

If you have a sprained ankle, or an ear infection, you may end up waiting for many hours in the emergency room and paying hundreds of dollars.  Most urgent care centers are open for extended hours, and will be able to accomodate you more quickly.

When you need to go to the Emergency Room:
If you have a serious condition – stroke, heart attack, severe bleeding, head injury or other major trauma – go straight to the nearest ER. Don’t take a chance with anything life-threatening. The ER is the best place for these and other critical conditions, including:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe bleeding or head trauma
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Sudden loss of vision or blurred vision

When an Urgent Care Center can better meet your needs:

  • Minor burns or injuries
  • Sprains and strains
  • Coughs, colds, and sore throats
  • Ear infections
  • Allergic reactions (non life-threatening)
  • Fever or flu-like symptoms
  • Rash or other skin irritations
  • Mild asthma
  • Animal bites
  • Broken Bones

And when in doubt, call ahead.  If the urgent care clinic in question can’t accomodate your condition, they will advise you to go the nearest emergency facility.

Remember, urgent care clinics are also a resource for flu shots,  and physicals for sports or school.

Source: http://www.urgentcare.org/UrgentCareDefined/ERvsUrgentCare/tabid/253/Default.aspx