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Exercising good health during heat waves

July 25, 2010
By CATHY BROWNFIELD, Family Recovery Center

Whether you are home in Ohio where the thermometer spends a considerable amount of time in the 80s and 90s, some days bumping close to triple digits, and the humidity is causing you to raise a sweat, or you are on vacation somewhere sunny, humid and more southern, say North Carolina, you need to use some common sense about your well being.

We all know how important it is to keep our bodies hydrated. When it's hot and we sweat, we need to replace the fluids we are losing through the sweat mechanism. By the time you begin to notice you are thirsty, your body already is in need of more fluids.

There are other considerations to make in regard to heat related illness. Do you know some medications can impair your body's response to heat? The Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH) advises, "Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist about your medications." Often your pharmacist will be better able to advise you about your medications.

Psychotropic drugs, and there is a lengthy list from Abilify to Zprexa, may interfere with your body's ability to regulate its own temperature. You could suffer hyperthermia (develop excessive body temperature). You can die. If you have a chronic medical condition, like heart or pulmonary disease, alcoholism, diabetes, etc., you are especially vulnerable, says the ODMH.

Anyone can be hit with heat exhaustion. Warning signs include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting and fainting. If you suffer heat exhaustion, get to a cooler place. Drink water, not coffee, tea or alcohol. Rest for a while. Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath. Wear loose clothing and stay where it is cooler.

During heat waves, heat strokes are commonand deadly, especially for people with chronic illnesses. Warning signs include confusion, dizziness, nausea, unconsciousness, a body temperature of 103 degrees F. or higher, a rapid, strong pulse, throbbing headache and red, hot, dry skin.

If these symptoms occur, contact 911. Loosen or remove clothing. Move to a cooler place. Bathe with cool water. Do not drink alcohol. If emergency help is delayed in arriving, call the emergency room for more instructions.

As that age-old wisdom advises, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventing heat exhaustion or heat stroke with common sense will work a whole lot better than going through those conditions. If you don't have air conditioning where you are, go where there is: the library, the mall. Keep the windows closed and curtains or blinds shut against the hot sun. In the evening when it's cooler, open the windows. During the hottest hours of the day, spend your time in cooler spots. If you have to do yard work and exercise, do it early in the morning before it gets hot or in the evening when it has cooled, but not during the heat of the day. Use sunscreen to prevent your skin being dried and burned by the sun. Drink water. Wear lose, light-colored clothing, a hat and sunglasses. Feel overheated? Take a cool shower or bath. Eating regular meals helps ensure you have enough salt and fluids in your body.

Remember that heat exhaustion develops over a period of time, through exposure to excessive temperatures and from not enough fluids in the body. Heat stroke is more serious. It happens when the body temperature rises quickly, you don't sweat enough and the body can't cool down.

Take care of yourself and enjoy the summer months. They are passing much too quickly. Know what effect your medications may have on your health during excessive weather conditions. And know what to do if heat-related illness strikes.

Family Recovery Center promotes the wellness of individuals, families and communities. For information about our substance abuse education, prevention and treatment programs, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, FRC is funded, in part, by the United Way of Northern Columbiana County.



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