Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And The Summer Is Here!

Here in Santa Barbara and throughout most of the west coast we have been experiencing a short heat wave that has led to warnings regarding participating in outdoor activities.  These record temperatures in areas where the population is accustomed to mild weather can lead to serious health risks including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

It is important to first know the difference between these two illnesses.  Understanding how these conditions come about, what their symptoms are, and how to prevent them, are critical for the general public to be aware of.  It is essential that we know the signs and symptoms of both conditions, especially during these short heat waves.  Some of the symptoms are pale, moist skin, muscle cramps, feelings of dizziness, weakness and nausea.  Heat stroke leads to more serious symptoms such as hot , flushed, dry skin,  initial high blood pressure which eventually decreases, and unconsciousness.  If these symptoms are recognized, an appropriate health care professional should be sought out immediately.  Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency and the individual in question must visit a hospital without delay.

Heat exhaustion occurs when people exercise at a high level in a hot, humid environment, where hydration is low, which leads to the body overheating.  Heat stroke can occur as well in these conditions. During heat stroke the individual’s “cooling system,” that is controlled by the brain stops working causing thier internal body temperature to rise above 105 degrees.1

The main cause of these conditions is that the body loses the ability to work efficiently in a hot, humid environment.  This humid environment limits the ability of a person to sweat, which is the main cooling function of the body.  If this is combined with an already dehydrated state there can be an inability to circulate blood to certain parts of the body.  The individuals most at risk are “infants and the elderly… as are those who are taking antihistamines and certain types of medication for high blood pressure or depression.”1

The best way to avoid these illnesses would be with prevention.  Those who are at high risk, should avoid strenuous activity in hot, humid environments, such as those we recently experienced in Central and Southern California.  Frequent breaks need to be taken in cooler environments and individuals should drink plenty of fluids. 

So go out there and enjoy the summer that California seemed to miss this year but be aware of the signs and symptoms of these conditions.


No comments:

Post a Comment