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Drink fluids, stay healthy in summer heat

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With temperatures expected in the uppers 90s to 100 between today and Thursday, health officials are urging people to drink water, take breaks and watch for symptoms of heat exhaustion.

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, May 25, 2019

With temperatures expected in the uppers 90s to 100 between today and Thursday, health officials are urging people to drink water, take breaks and watch for symptoms of heat exhaustion.

Local doctors and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services are urging people to take steps to protect themselves from heat-related illnesses as people celebrate Memorial Day weekend and then return to work.

"High temperatures, along with high humidity levels can be dangerous,” said Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, State Health Director and DHHS Chief Medical Officer. People spending time outdoors for work or recreation to protect themselves from the sun and to drink plenty of fluids to minimize the risk of heat-related illness, she said.

Dr. Rochelle Asagbra, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brody School of Medicine, lived in Alabama for four years during her medical residency and then moved to Greenville, so she has seen her share of heat-related illness.

While the negatives effects of heat occur more quickly in older individuals and people with medical conditions, Asagbra said adults who work in construction or other jobs that keep them outside or children and teens who play sports also have to be careful.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve seen more younger people here with heat exhaustion or signs of heat exhaustion as oppose to Birmingham where it was a mix of everybody,” Asagbra said.

Symptoms of heat-related illness include muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, fainting, headaches, nausea and vomiting.

If a person begins experiencing those symptoms and also experiences clammy and pale skin, they may be experiencing heat exhaustion, Asagbra said. It typically can be reversed by going into a cooler place, resting, drinking water, perhaps removing some clothing and placing damp cloths on the skin, she said.

If a person’s symptoms don’t get better after an hour or so, or if their mental status changes or they pass out, they could be experiencing a heatstroke and should be taking to the emergency department so they can get intravenous fluids and other treatment, Asagbra said.

Every summer there are about 3,000 heat-related illness emergency department visits, according to the state Department of Health and Humans Services.

While people should be careful, they don’t have to spend the holiday weekend or the summer hidden in a cool, dark room.

“I would definitely say enjoy the summer and enjoy the beach, enjoy the outdoors but pay attention to signs and symptoms of heatstroke and heat exhaustions and really do your best to prevent those symptoms from worsening,” Asagbra said. “Make sure you go inside for regular intervals and stay hydrated.”

Stay healthy

People should take the following steps to reduce risk of heat-related illness:

■ Increase fluid intake.

■ Take frequent breaks in cool or air-conditioned places if spending extended time outside.

■ Reduce normal activity levels.

■ Speak with your physician about how to stay safe if you take medicines that make you more vulnerable to heat, such as drugs for high blood pressure, migraines, allergies, muscle spasms, mental illness and tranquilizers.

■ Check on neighbors, and if working outdoors, check on your co-workers.

■ Never leave children or pets unattended in vehicles, especially during warm or hot weather, as temperature levels inside a car can reach a lethal level in a matter of minutes.

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