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Your Healthy Family: Signs of a heat emergency

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

With forecasts predicting dangerously hot temperatures for more than 20 states, the possibility of suffering a heat emergency is very real.

Don’t ignore the symptoms

According to Tom Waters, M.D., an emergency department physician at Cleveland Clinic, it’s important to recognize the signs of heat emergency early.

“One of the dangers with heat emergencies is that people tend to ignore the signs and symptoms and if you start feeling a little sick, maybe a little nauseated, headache, not feeling right, you need to get yourself out of the heat and get cooled off, ” said Dr. Waters.

Dr. Waters said the best thing to do when the temperatures climb to triple-digits is to stay indoors in air conditioning when possible.

He said that folks with asthma need to be especially careful during the extreme heat, as emergency departments will often see a peak in breathing-related issues during these times.

Drink the right fluids

Dr. Waters said the other most common heat emergency is dehydration, with the very old, the very young, and those who work outside being most at risk.

For those who do have to be outdoors for any period of time, he suggested drinking plenty of water and working in short spurts, rather than long stretches of time.

After cooling off and drinking water, if symptoms persist, it’s best to avoid go back into the heat for the rest of the day.  

As far as what to drink, Dr. Waters said that water is best, or an electrolyte solution.

It’s a good idea to avoid anything with caffeine or too much sugar, as they will have a dehydrating effect. So coffee isn’t a good idea, even if it’s iced.

“The key also is to drink before you’re thirsty,” said Dr. Waters. “Once you’re thirsty, you’re already on your way to dehydration, so make sure you stay ahead of your thirst if you’re out during a heat wave.”

Dr. Waters also said it’s wise to avoid drinking any alcohol in the heat, as it can make it easier to lose fluids. So even though a cold beer may taste good on a hot day, it’s not going to help you stay hydrated.

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