GAPA Offers Tips to Avoid Heat-Related Illness
08/04/2010

The Georgia Association of Physician Assistants wants to help you avoid the single most serious threat to human life during these hot summer days - heat injury.

Online PR News – 04-August-2010 – – (Atlanta, GA) The summer of 2010 may end up being one of the hottest summers on record. With that in mind, the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants wants to help you avoid the single most serious threat to human life during this time of the year - heat injury.

“The fatality rate from heat-related illnesses is higher than sudden death from heart attacks or being struck by automobiles,” said Ben Taylor, PhD., PA-C. Taylor is the public education chair for the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants and works in multiple emergency departments in Georgia and South Carolina. “Anyone, at any time, can suffer from heat-related illness,” he stated. “But infants and young children; the elderly; people with mental illnesses; and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure are at greatest risk.”

Taylor cautioned that overweight people might be prone to heat sickness, as well, because of their tendency to retain more body heat. And, outdoor workers are at risk of developing heat-related illnesses as they often endure temperatures over 100° F during their daily work day.

"The best defense against any heat-related illness is prevention,” he advised. “To protect your health when temperatures are extremely high, remember to keep cool and use common sense.” Taylor offered the following tips:

1. If you must be out in the heat, try to plan your activities so that you are outdoors either early morning or in the late evening. While outdoors, rest frequently in a shady area. Resting periodically will give your body’s thermostat a chance to recover.
2. Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If you are taking water pills, ask your medical provider how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
1. Don’t consume large amounts of sugary drinks (including sweet tea), or alcoholic beverages. These drinks actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps. Drink water, low-sugar fruit juices, or a sports beverage while working in the heat for any length of time.
2. Avoid hot foods and heavy meals as they add heat to your body.
3. Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Wear a wide-brimmed hat for shade. Dress kids in cool, loose clothing and shade their heads and faces with hats or an umbrella. When selecting sunscreen for your family, check the sun protection factor (SPF) number on the label of the sunscreen container. Select SPF 15 or higher to protect yourself adequately. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply according to package directions.
4. Stay indoors as much as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, take a cool shower or bath or go to the local shopping mall, grocery store, or public library. A few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
5. Visit family and friends (especially those in at-risk groups) at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat-related illnesses.
6. Be aware that any sudden change in temperature will be stressful to your body. You will have a greater tolerance if you limit your physical activity until you become accustomed to the heat. When traveling to a hotter climate, allow several days to become acclimated before attempting any vigorous exercise, and work up to it gradually.

“If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath,” Taylor concluded, “STOP all activity, get into a cool area, or at least in the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint.”

For more information on heat illness prevention or for additional health tips, visit a Georgia physician assistant or go to www.GAPA.net and click on “Patients.” More than 2500 PAs make healthcare more affordable and accessible for Georgians every day. It is the mission of the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants to promote this high quality, cost-effective, accessible health care as part of a physician-directed PA/physician team.

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