How to stay safe during a heatwave
How to stay safe during a heatwave

Katharin Czink, Dina Bair and Ashleigh Jackson

12 mins ago

(WGN) – Extreme heat not only robs us of energy, it can also damage vital organs in our body, including the brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To help you stay safe this summer despite scorching temperatures, here’s what you need to know:

Drink enough fluids

Dr. Andrew Costello, an emergency medicine physician at Endeavor Health in Chicago, said it’s important to drink fluids like water and sports drinks before summer activities.

“If you exercise strenuously and don’t drink plenty of fluids beforehand, it can be difficult to replace the fluid loss that occurs through excessive sweating,” Costello said.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The goal is to keep electrolytes balanced while sweating to regulate blood pressure and heart rate. Costello explained that excess heat can cause vasodilation, which occurs when blood vessels expand and allow more blood to flow through them. This can lead to a drop in blood pressure and possibly fainting, he said.

As for how much you should drink, the CDC recommends drinking one cup (or 8 ounces) every 15 to 20 minutes to prevent heat exhaustion, but the agency warns against drinking more than 48 ounces per hour.

“Drinking too much water or other liquids (sports drinks, energy drinks, etc.) can lead to medical
“There is an emergency because the salt concentration in the blood becomes too low,” the CDC states.

More tips

If you choose to be active outside in hot weather, do so during cooler times of the day, such as in the morning or evening, according to the CDC. Also, wear light clothing and take frequent breaks in shaded areas.

The best rule of thumb, however, is to stay in air-conditioned indoor spaces — whether at home, the library or a public cooling center. The American Red Cross said it’s not safe to rely on an electric fan to cool down because it can’t protect against heat-related illness.

What is heat-related illness?

Think of heat-related illness as a spectrum. It starts with cramps as you lose fluids. The next stage is heat exhaustion, which can lead to more severe symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and weakness.

The third and most dangerous stage is heat stroke. Symptoms include altered mental status, seizures, clotting disorders and liver damage.

“This is a life-threatening emergency that requires rapid evaluation and treatment in the emergency room,” said Costello. “We have cooling blankets and use water mist with fans to assist in the evaporation process and remove the heat.”

(Source: WGN)

Who is most at risk?

Costello said people with cardiovascular disease should be especially cautious as temperatures rise. Diabetics and people taking certain blood pressure medications are also “at higher risk for heat-related illness,” he explained.

Older patients are also at greater risk and often end up in the emergency room. They should avoid the heat if possible.

Even otherwise healthy people can feel the effects that often creep in when we live through a muggy summer. “With low blood pressure and early electrolyte imbalances, you can certainly feel weak and tired,” Costello said.

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