Too much heat can hurt you

Kate got down from the tractor. She was helping to bale hay when she suddenly didn’t feel so well. She hadn’t thought it was excessively warm, just a nice summer day. Still, she had been drinking a sports drink to keep herself hydrated. She looked at the house, unsure whether she could make it that far, but she kept telling herself, “One more step. One more step.” And then she was inside the cool house. She let cold water run down her arms, wiped her face and neck several times, drank water and sat in front of the fan. In a while she began to feel better.

There are multiple reasons for heat-related illness. As we age our bodies are less able to manage heat and cold the way we used to do. Your medications or medical conditions can make your body overheat, especially on the hottest, humid days of summer, and can be fatal if not treated soon enough, reports OhioMHAS (Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.)

OhioMHAS also reports that almost all psychotropic medications except benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs, sedatives) are among the medications that cause the body not to respond well to heat. Alcohol, narcotics and street drugs can also decrease the body’s heat tolerance.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) explains the various heat-related conditions that can happen during extreme heat:

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Symptoms include confusion, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, hot, dry skin or heavy sweating, seizures, very high body temperature.

Heat exhaustion occurs when too much water and salt is lost, most generally through heavy sweating. This often happens to elderly persons, people with high blood pressure, and workers in hot environments. Headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, heavy sweating, elevated body temperature and decreased urination are the symptoms to watch for.

Rhabdomyolysis may not be a word you have seen before. It’s related to heat stress and too long a time of physical exertion. Muscle tissue breaks down quickly, ruptures and dies. When the muscle dies, electrolytes and large proteins are rushed to the bloodstream. The result can be irregular heart rhythms and seizures, and damage to the kidneys. Muscle cramps/pain, dark urine, weakness, inability to tolerate exercise, or perhaps no symptoms at all may be felt.

Fainting or dizziness from standing too long or getting up too suddenly are symptomatic of heat syncope. Heat cramps, pain or spasms can occur in the abdomen, arms or legs.

Mayo Clinic advises that heat stroke occurs when the body temperature reaches 104 degrees F. Getting treatment as soon as possible is necessary to prevent permanent brain or other organ damage. Risk factors: children under age 4 and people over age 65, certain drugs, obesity, a high heat index and sudden temperature changes. It is recommended that loose-fitting clothing should be worn on those extreme heat days. Drink plenty of liquids to keep your body hydrated. Take it easy during the hottest times of the day. Never leave anyone sitting in a parked car on hot days. And if you are taking a medication that affects your body’s ability to maintain a healthy body temperature, take extra precautions. If you don’t know if your medications do this, ask your health care provider and pharmacist how best to take care of yourself during extreme weather conditions.

Family Recovery Center helps families to find ways to navigate through the challenges we face. For more information about the agency’s treatment and education programs, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468, or email, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.


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