Summer is supposed to be hot – but what has been happening for the last few years, however, is excessive. The week before the 2021 July 4th weekend was one of the hottest on record, with heat indexes reaching 105 degrees. This excessive summer heat could continue throughout the season, which poses serious health risks to people of all ages, but especially the elderly and the very young.
Already, the Baltimore Sun reports, one person has died from heat-related causes this year. Last year, 16 people died, so it is safe to assume that we could see more deaths before the cooler autumn months. Temporary cooling centers have been set up in various counties and public pools are open, which should help reduce the risks associated with heat, but if projected figures remain the same, those centers may need to be made permanent. Still, there are steps we should all take to ensure that we are safe this summer.
How to avoid heat-related illnesses and injuries during the summer in Maryland
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following tips to reduce the risk of heat-related illness or injury:
- Wear sunscreen. Severe sunburn not only harms the skin and increases cancer risk, but it also affects the body’s ability to cool down and regulate its internal temperature. You should continue to apply sunscreen based on the directions on the bottle or can.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Lightweight, loose-fitting clothes, in conjunction with sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, can help you stay cooler when you must be in the sun.
- Limit your outdoor plans. If you must be outdoors, limit your exposure. Spend time resting inside where it is cooler, and look for shaded areas. Even a day spent in the pool or ocean can lead to heat stroke, so plan accordingly.
- Eat light. Hot meals can increase your internal temperature, so avoid hot, heavy foods. Instead, stick to lighter meals.
- Drink water. The risk of dehydration increases in extreme heat. Stay hydrated with water and avoid sugary drinks. They just make you thirstier without actually sating your thirst. Sport drinks and products like Pedialyte may also help, but speak to your doctor about them first. Those types of drinks are high in salt.
- Watch your kids and pets. Children and pets are more susceptible to heat, and small children may lack the ability to articulate their needs. Keep them cool and hydrated, and NEVER leave them in a hot car alone.
We would also add this: Call for help if you feel ill. Most heat illnesses are accompanied by nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. If you are experiencing these symptoms, do not attempt to drive yourself to an ER or walk-in clinic. It is possible that you could pass out while behind the wheel, putting yourself at risk of a car accident. Instead, ask someone to drive you, or call for an ambulance.
What kinds of injuries and illness are caused by excessive heat?
There are five types of heat-related illnesses:
- Heat stroke
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat cramps
- Heat rash
Each one of these conditions (except for heat rash) can require medical intervention. Heat stroke, however, is a medical emergency. Its symptoms include nausea, confusion, dizziness, headache, and increased heart rate, as well as a body temperature of at least 103 degrees. Heat stroke, in essence, presents like a high fever, and it has all of the same risks. If your loved one goes into heat stroke, call 9-1-1 and then move him or her to a cool place. Do not give the person anything to drink; instead, place him or her in a cool bath, or lay cool cloths across his or her face and body.
Excessive heat can also lead to dehydration. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more liquids and essential salts than a person can replace. In moderate to severe cases, the victim may require hospitalization and IV fluids.
Can prescription drugs affect your reaction to heat?
Yes, certain prescription drugs can increase your risk of developing a heat-related illness. Per the Cleveland Clinic, people taking any of the following medications could be at additional risk:
- Water pills
- Beta blockers
- Medications for Parkinson’s disease
- Medications for certain mental illnesses and mental health conditions, such as Adderall and Ritalin
- Certain antibiotics (like Bactrim or tetracyclines)
OTC medications may also affect your body’s ability to regulate its own temperature, thus putting you at risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or sunburn. Benadryl, for example, can affect your ability to sweat.
You should also know that excessive heat can actually increase the level of drugs (prescribed or not) in your body if you become dehydrated. If you are on any prescription or OTC medication, make sure to stay hydrated.
At Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. we want you to stay safe this summer. If you do suffer an injury caused by the negligence of others, call us today at 410-730-7737 or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation with a Maryland personal injury lawyer.