Dangerous days

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 17, 2004

People of all ages felt the heat this past week as temperatures soared to the triple digits and heat indexes went into the danger level.

Yes, the heat is quite dangerous as heat strokes and heat exhaustion can be a problem for people of all ages.

The recent blistering temperatures have left conditions suitable for a variety of health problems.

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The problems associated with heat know no age barrier, according to medical experts. They can prove fatal to all ages from infants to elderly people.

Nurse Practitioner Anne Keen, of Greenville Pediatrics, said small children should be closely watched during the hot summer months.

&uot;Children can get heat exhaustion and heat stroke just like adults,&uot; said Keen. &uot;It is very important to closely monitor how long they are in the sun.&uot;

Keen said the best way to do this was to limit children to certain periods of play in the sun.

&uot;We recommend short stints outside,&uot; said Keen. &uot;We also recommend they use a water proof or sweat proof sun block.&uot;

Keen said dehydration was a large problem for younger children and parents should be sure they take in plenty of liquids.

&uot;Children can easily dehydrate,&uot; said Keen. &uot;One way to prevent that is to make sure they take in plenty of fluids. They should also make sure they are hydrating fluids and not soft drinks.&uot;

As far as infants are concerned Keen said it is best to keep them out of the sun altogether.

&uot;Infants under six months should not be in the sun,&uot; said Keen. &uot;It is best to keep them inside or in the shade.&uot;

Similar problems can effect the elderly during periods of extreme heat.

Dr. Ken Woll of Southeastern Cardiology said he recommends avoiding the heat altogether for elderly people.

&uot;The older you get the higher the risk is,&uot; said Woll. &uot;Especially if you have existing heart problems.&uot;

Woll said even if elderly people are doing nothing in the heat it could cause problems.

&uot;It puts a big strain on the heart even if they are out and aren’t doing anything,&uot; said Woll. &uot;I tell people not to exert themselves.&uot;

While Woll suggests people stay out of the heat, he says there are ways to keep up their exercise programs.

&uot;I tell them to go walk at Wal-Mart or in the mall,&uot; said Woll. &uot;It’s important to keep exercising, but they need to do it somewhere cool.&uot;

Woll also said fluids were important.

&uot;It’s always important to keep lots of fluids,&uot; said Woll. &uot;Water will do fine. It’s just important to stay hydrated.&uot;

Woll said no matter what people do in the summer the main thing was to keep out of the heat.

&uot;The main thing is to stay cool,&uot; said Woll. &uot;Use fans and air conditioning or whatever you can. Just stay cool.&uot;

There are four major problems that arise from exposure to heat. Each has unique characteristics they can be recognized by the following:

N Heat cramps are a mild, but very painful, problem with overheating. Cramps usually occur after heavy exertion. Cramps occur in the muscles of the arms, legs and abdomen.

Treatment for cramps can be oral fluid and a quarter to a half a teaspoon of table salt in one glass of water.

N Heat Syncope is another problem that comes from reduced blood flow to the brain. Increased blood flow to the skin and pooling of blood in the legs can lead to a drop in blood pressure. This usually leads to a feeling of lightheadedness and fainting.

The best way to treat a person for this is lying them down, replacing fluids and consulting a doctor as quickly as possible.

N Heat exhaustion is a very serious problem stemming from over exposure to the sun. This occurs from excessive sweating in a hot environment, which reduces blood volume.

Symptoms include profuse sweating, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, and vomiting, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure and a core body temperature of 38 degrees to 39 degrees Celsius.

Treatment is to move the person to a cool area to rest, remove restrictive clothing and give oral fluids. The recommended amount is 1 liter per hour for several hours. If recovery is delayed, intravenous fluids and active cooling will be needed.

N Heat stroke exceeds the other three in the seriousness and urgency. A heat stroke occurs when the body temperature exceeds 40.5 degrees Celsius. It causes many organs in the body to suffer tissue damage and the body temperature must be reduced quickly. Most people will have very noticeable changes such as delirium, coma and seizures.

Some of the effects are not as easily seen. There can be liver, kidney, and muscle and heart damage.

Treatment in the field is to move the person to a cool shady place, remove unnecessary clothing and spray them with water or wrap them in wet towels. It is very important to increase the airflow over the victim.

Anyone suffering from heat stroke should be quickly taken to the hospital where more intense treatment can be given.