Heat Emergencies: Know the Signs

Heat Emergencies: Know the Signs

As I write this blog on heat-related emergencies, the nation is experiencing one of the hottest summers in recent history. The elevated temperatures and high heat index are cause for concern for many across the nation. Forecasters are predicting hundreds of cases of heat-related illnesses and increases in death due to the hot weather conditions.

The more humid it is, the more likely we are to sweat and lose important body fluids, such as water and important electrolytes which our bodies need to stay healthy and regulated. Excessive sweating without replenishment or the inability to sweat normally heightens our risk of serious illness.

Those especially vulnerable are the very young, our elderly population and those who suffer from chronic medical conditions. Heat-related emergencies are also known to occur in cities and urban areas due to heat absorbed and retained by buildings, asphalt and other materials which continue to radiate heat well into the night.

The spectrum of heat illnesses ranges from HEAT EXHAUSTION (less serious) to HEAT STROKE (which can quickly become deadly). With a fine line of distinction between the two, a person can rapidly progress from the urgent event of heat exhaustion to the critical and potentially life-threatening condition of heat stroke. Understanding and recognizing the signs or symptoms of a heat-related illness could save a life.

For people of all ages, prevention is key for staying healthy and safe in the sun and heat of summer.

Be sure to keep these tips in mind during these hot, hot days:

  • Avoid outdoor activity during peak hot temperatures.
  • Find comfort in shaded areas or air conditioning.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Sports drinks can be beneficial.
  • Avoid excessive soft drinks and alcohol.
  • Check on your elderly family, neighbors and shut-ins.
  • Seek out water recreation such as swimming, sprinklers, water parks or cool baths.
  • Call 911 if heat stroke is suspected. Remove person from hot environment, if possible, and remove any excess clothing.

Dr. Brian Cote’, FACEP

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  • Brian Coté, DO

    Brian Coté, DO

    Board certified in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Brian Cote has practiced at Holland Hospital for 20 years in both emergency medicine and urgent care. He's currently the Medical Director of Urgent Care. After completing his residency at Spectrum Health - Butterworth Campus, Dr. Cote decided to make west Michigan home. He continues to cultivate his passion of urgent care - enriching the lives of patient's in his care.

    All blogs by Brian Coté, DO

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