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Baby It’s Hot Outside

This week as the temperatures climb into the mid to upper 90s, we are getting a taste of typical summer weather here in central North Carolina.

As of today at 2:00, three patients had been seen in WakeMed’s emergency departments for heat-related illnesses and injuries since Friday at midnight.  These illnesses and injuries are usually dehydration or heat exhaustion.

During a media interview with NBC-17, Dr. Mike Utecht, an emergency department physician at WakeMed Cary Hospital, stated:

Heat stroke is very, very rare and that heat exhaustion is much more common.  Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, nausea and cramps. The good news is that heat exhaustion is easily treated with fluids and, as are all heat-related illnesses or injuries, very preventable.

Protection Against Heat Illness/Injuries

Protect yourself and your family by following the following guidelines:

#1 – Drink fluids every 15 minutes while outside.

Choosing water is always best. Sports drinks, like Gatorade, are second best.  Avoid caffeine or alcohol.

Dr. Utecht cautioned that if you feel thirsty, you have probably waited too long to drink fluid:

Thirst is a clear signal that you need to take a break and cool off in the shade or air conditioning.

#2 – Make sure children stay hydrated.

Children can become dehydrated faster than adults.  Offer your child fluids every 15 minutes.

Dr. Utecht also warned about the danger of leaving children in hot cars.

Each year, children are treated in the emergency department for heat related illness from spending prolonged time in a hot car. It is very important that children are not left in a hot car. Children have difficulty regulating their body temperature, and even a short time in a very hot car can lead to heat stroke or death for a child.

#3 – Take frequent breaks in the shade, by a fan, or in air-conditioning.

#4 – Wear loose fitting, light-colored clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat.

#5 – Check on the elderly.

Finally, Dr. Utecht encouraged everyone to check on the elderly during hot weather.

The elderly, especially those taking certain medications, have trouble regulating their body temperature. Make your elderly friends and neighbors have air conditioning or fans available to them.

Addendum 6/16/2010: Yesterday the News & Observer posted an informative story highlighting eight summer safety myths.  Heat and the danger of leaving kids in hot cars are two of the topics covered, along with swimming and sun safety.