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Ask Dr. Nandi: Heatwave health dangers

Posted at 5:48 PM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-06 17:48:49-04

(WXYZ) — An intense heatwave has hit Michigan and much of the country. We’re expecting temperatures in the 90s for several days this month. The heat brings significant health risks, especially for the elderly and very young.

It’s been a long time since we have seen a string of days with high temperatures in the low- to mid-90s. And while you may be tempted to soak up the sun, it’s best to limit your exposure because the heat and humidity are a dangerous mix.

Here’s why: The human body deals with heat through breathing and sweating. But your sweat needs to evaporate in order to cool your body down.

So, if you’re exposed to the heat too long and your body loses the ability to cool down, the sweat can no longer evaporate. Instead, your core body temperature will rise and you can get Heat Stroke or Heat Exhaustion.

Both of these conditions are extremely dangerous and can even lead to death.

So, in addition to limiting your time outside, here’s what else you can do to stay safe:

  • Stay Hydrated. Drink plenty of water and sports drinks with electrolytes.
  • Wear Loose-fitting Clothing. This will help prevent rashes that occur when sweat glands are blocked by tight clothing.
  • Move your Workout to an Air-Conditioned or Cool Space. Exercising in the heat can lead to painful muscle spasms.
  • And, always use Sunscreen. Too much direct exposure to the sun can lead to sunburn and possibly skin cancer.

There are several things to look for. The symptoms for heat stroke are similar to those of an actual stroke, such as cold and clammy skin, profuse sweating, nausea, confusion, dizziness, and slurred speech. This is a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 immediately.

And, the signs of heat exhaustion include excessive sweating, thirst, weakness, and a headache. Anyone with these symptoms should be moved to a cool, shaded area immediately and given fluids.

My kids love to play outdoors and go swimming. But, children are at a greater risk of becoming dehydrated or suffering a heat-related illness. Make sure they drink cool water early and often, even if they’re not thirsty.

Dress them in light-colored, lightweight clothing. Let them cool off in the pool or bath. And if it’s just too hot outside, find an indoor activity in an air-conditioned space. Have a safe summer.