About 50 million people are under heat alert on Tuesday.
“What’s most problematic about the heat is that it’s a sneaky climate problem because it kills a lot of people, but it’s not as awesome as a hurricane or something. It happens all the time, so it’s sneaky,” environmental epidemiologist Tarik Benmarhnia said. from the University of California at San Diego.
Mild or moderate dehydration is manageable by drinking more fluids, but severe dehydration requires medical attention.
The problem is that your body doesn’t always let you know early enough that you need more water. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re behind on your fluid replacement. Older people often don’t feel thirsty until they are actually dehydrated.
You also want to stay hydrated after coming in from the heat, drinking enough fluids to replace what you’ve lost through sweating.
Chronic dehydration can increase your risk of kidney stones and urinary tract infections, as well as longer-term problems.
The “most concerning consequence” of high heat is heat stroke, said Dr. Scott Dresden, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University.
If the body’s temperature rises rapidly, its natural cooling mechanism – sweat – fails. A person’s temperature can reach a dangerous 106 degrees or more in just 10 or 15 minutes. This can lead to disability or even death.
Older adults, people taking certain medications like beta-blockers and antidepressants, and children may all have a harder time regulating heat. Alcohol can also prevent the body from regulating its temperature, as can dehydration or being overdressed for the heat.
If you notice someone is confused, has flushed skin, seems to be breathing rapidly, or complains of a headache, seek shade or air conditioning. Cool them with cool water, ice packs or wet towels around the neck, head, armpits and groin. And get medical help as soon as possible.
A person with heatstroke may sweat profusely or not at all. They may become confused or pass out, and they could have a seizure. Untreated, heat stroke can quickly damage the brain. This can cause the heart to beat dangerously fast and the body to shut down.
You can reduce the risk of heatstroke by wearing loose, lightweight clothing. Also wear sunscreen: People who get sunburned have less ability to regulate their body temperature. To drink a lot of water. Try to avoid working outdoors or exercising during the hottest hours of the day. Allow yourself to acclimatize to high temperatures before you start running marathons or doing any other extreme outdoor exercise.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much water or salt through excessive sweating. Typically, this can happen when you are exposed to high temperatures combined with high humidity or if you are involved in strenuous physical activity, such as running or playing football.
Signs of heat exhaustion may include cold or wet skin with goosebumps, heavy sweating, feeling faint or tired, unusual heartbeat, muscle cramps, headache, or nausea .
If you think you or someone else is suffering from heat exhaustion, rest in the shade or in the air conditioning. Drink cool water. If symptoms do not improve, see a doctor.
At this point, the treatment is not so pleasant. “We typically use ice baths in our emergency room,” Dresden said. “We will do a cold water immersion.”
If that’s not available, a hospital can try wet sheets and a large ventilator.
How to stay healthy in the heat
Extremely high temperatures can be linked to at least 17 causes of death, most linked to heart and respiratory problems, but also suicide, drowning and homicide.
Studies have shown that exposure to oppressive heat can contribute to mental health issues, problems for pregnant women, and poor birth outcomes.
Even if you don’t work or exercise outdoors, be aware of temperature extremes.
Dr. Stephanie Lareau, an emergency physician in Rocky Mount, Va., said it’s important to monitor not just the temperature, but also the heat index. This takes humidity into account, and it may matter more for heat-related illnesses.
When planning activities, try to keep them out of the heat, especially if you have young children or older people in your social circle, as they don’t handle the heat as well.
“Make sure everyone is drinking plenty of fluids,” Lareau said. “You don’t have to drink large amounts of water, but drink some before you feel thirsty – and especially when you’re thirsty. These things are really important. Heat-related illnesses are totally preventable with the good approach.”