NEW ORLEANS, LA
June 21st marks the Summer Solstice, the beginning of what has already become a scorching summer in Southeast Louisiana. Although summertime in Louisiana is ideal for outdoor events such as family barbeques and swimming parties, along with these outdoor activities come the dangers of heat-related illness for adults and children.
The old adage, If you cant stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen, is particularly important this time of the year, says Dr. Joseph Guarisco, MD, Systems Director of Emergency Medicine at Ochsner. Guarisco explains that heat exhaustion is a serious illness triggered by insufficient body fluids and prolonged exposure to heat. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, tiredness, clammy skin, extreme thirst, muscle cramps, and often nausea or vomiting. Heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heat stroke, a medical emergency.
A heat stroke occurs when the bodys cooling system fails and the body cannot regulate its temperature. Warning signs include increased body temperature, dry skin, a rapid pulse, disorientation or unconsciousness, explains Dr. Guarisco. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or even death -- call 9-11 if you think someone is having a heat stroke. Until help arrives, move the victim to a cool, shaded area, remove excess clothing and dampen the skin with moist cloths.
While the summer heat can take a toll on anyone, those at most risk include:
- Children under the age of four
- Seniors over the age of 65
- Overweight individuals
- Persons who are already ill or taking medications
The solution is water, water, and more water, says Dr. Guarisco. Staying hydrated with plenty of cool water is the most effective tool in preventing heat-related illnesses. In extreme heat, the body cannot disperse heat properly and body temperature soars. Water helps the body adjust to high temperatures and restore fluid lost through sweating.
Some additional tips for dealing with the suns deadly rays:
- Familiarize your body to the increasing heat by gradually spending more time outdoors.
- Drink water frequently. Avoid alcohol, coffee, sodas, and tea as these can lead to dehydration.
- If possible, avoid spending prolonged time outside between 12pm and 4pm, which is the hottest time of day.
- When outdoors, wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
"Remember, your body can only take so much fun in the sun, and pushing it to the limit can be very dangerous. Heat illness can develop rapidly and with very little warning. Use commonsense this summer slow down, take breaks, and drink plenty of fluids, offers Dr. Guarisco.
For additional information, contact the Ochsner Emergency Department at (504) 842 3460.
Ochsner Health System (www.ochsner.org) is a non-profit, academic, multi-specialty, healthcare delivery system dedicated to patient care, research and education. The system includes seven hospitals, a sub-acute facility, and 33 health centers located throughout Southeast Louisiana. Ochsner was ranked #1Best Place to Work by New Orleans CityBusiness Magazine in 2005 and 2006 and received the Consumer Choice for Healthcare in New Orleans for 12 consecutive years.
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