Hot temperatures continue to slam the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Whether you have a job that requires being outdoors, are practicing for band or football, or simply enjoy working in the yard, be aware of risks associated with the heat.
Heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke can occur when your body cannot properly cool itself by sweating. Ketan Trivedi, MD, medical director of the emergency department and an independently practicing physician on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, reminds us to limit our time in the scorching heat, stay hydrated, and be mindful of the foods we consume.
When you have to be outdoors, wear lightweight, loose-fitted clothing and take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors. “The occasional douse of fresh water also works well to help cool you down,” Dr. Trivedi says.
Replacing the water you lose through sweating is essential. Water is in every cell in the body. It helps regulate various cell functions, body temperature, cushions and lubricates joints, protects sensitive tissues, and assists the digestive system. Most people can meet their need for water by drinking when they are thirsty and consuming fluids with meals under normal circumstances. But in hot weather, your body needs more.
“It’s more advantageous to drink fluids at night prior to outdoor activities in the heat. This will help build up fluid reserves in the body making you less susceptible to dehydration and heat illness,” explains Dr. Trivedi. “If you wait until 20 minutes before you go outside and drink a gallon of water, it’s probably too late to hydrate.”
Along with water, other healthy choices are fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened 100 percent fruit juice, and unsweetened iced tea or coffee.
“Drink fluids before you’re thirsty and drink more than your thirst demands,” Dr. Trivedi advises. “If you’re exercising, drink two to four glasses of nonalcoholic fluids each hour. Salt tablets, salt water, or Gatorade energy drink are also good options for keeping your body replenished with electrolytes that you might sweat out. The key is to drink plenty of water with them.”
While beverages such as soda and sports drinks do contain water, they are also high in sugar and calories and can actually cause you to lose more body fluids, Dr. Trivedi warns.
“Snow cones and frozen fruit juice popsicles are also tasty options, and they’re better cold-food treats than ice cream because they’re lighter in your stomach,” Dr. Trivedi recommends. “The kids might find them fun too.”
Choose foods that have high water content, such as watermelons, grapefruits, apples, lettuce, broccoli, and carrots and avoid fried and salty foods, which can dehydrate your body. Avoid skipping meals, which can potentially elevate blood pressure, especially if the person is losing fluids and not replacing them.
Dr. Trivedi says that some physician’s advocate their patients monitor the color of their urine to see of they are well hydrated or not. If it’s the color of lemonade, then you have a good amount of water in your system. If your urine is a darker color of apple juice, then you need to drink more fluids. Many factors contribute to the color of urine including medication, and may not always be an indicator of the body’s hydration status, but may be helpful.
As we exercise and sweat our bodies are depleted of water and electrolytes, but the key is adding back what is lost. When you don’t have water being replaced, you’re going to start experiencing signs of heat illness, Dr. Trivedi cautions. Recognize the warning signs of heat-related illnesses and act promptly.
Symptoms include dry mouth, weakness, dizziness, and headaches, as well as muscle pains or spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs, which may occur in association with strenuous activity. If you experience these symptoms, stop activity and drink cool water or an electrolyte-containing energy drink. If symptoms don’t subside seek medical attention.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include profuse sweating, headache, weakness, dizziness, and loss of appetite. Dr. Trivedi says seek medical attention immediately if symptoms are severe or if a person has a heart problem or high blood pressure.
Heatstroke, the most serious heat-related illness, can cause permanent disability or death. Symptoms include a body temperature often above 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; red, hot, and dry skin with no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse may be present; confusion, delirium, and agitation are often present as well. Dr. Trivedi advises anyone with these symptoms to call 911 or seek immediate emergency medical treatment.
While this summer may be the hottest on record, Dr. Trivedi wants people to enjoy their summer-time activities while being mindful of taking care of themselves and their loved ones.
To find a physician on the Methodist Mansfield medical staff, call toll-free 877-637-4297 or visit the online physician directory.