Monday, September 24, 2012

How to Prevent Heat Injury

As we get well into summer, temperatures rise, the heat index soars and more and more people are prone to heat injuries and exhaustion. There are different types of heat injuries, all of which occur as a result of dehydration which is intensified when people engage in strenuous daytime activities. Dehydration is the major cause of all the different types of heat injuries and this can be prevented by drinking enough fluids to replace those lost as a result of sweating.

Heat injuries range anywhere from mild to severe; here are some common types of injuries resulting from the heat:

Heat cramps: This is a mild heat injury that happens as a result of a lack of fluids and electrolytes during extended periods in heat. These cramps often occur in the arm leg and stomach muscles, and can be treated by stretching, reducing activity and cooling down with fluids and electrolytes.

Heat syncope: This is a moderate heat injury that happens as a result of not replacing lost fluids and electrolytes. Weakness and fainting are symptoms of heat syncope and this condition can be treated by cooling off, removing tight clothing and rehydrating.

Heat exhaustion: This is a moderate heat injury that occurs as a result of loss of body fluids or electrolytes. Symptoms of heat exhaustion as a result of water loss include: exhaustion, headaches and even fainting. Symptoms of heat exhaustion as a result of salt depletion include: dizziness, nausea, vomiting and even severe heat cramps.

This condition can be treated by stopping activity, drinking electrolyte rich fluids, cooling off and removing tight clothing. Medical attention may be necessary if nausea and vomiting occur.

Heat stroke: This is the most severe type of heat injury and requires medical attention. This occurs when the body becomes too hot to cool itself and can result in body temperature rising above 104°F; when the body temperature gets this high, organ system failure can occur. Symptoms include disorientation and nausea, as well as seizures. Heat strokes can also result in loss of consciousness or even a coma.

Here are some tips to help you reduce the risk of heat injury.

· Keep yourself well hydrated with electrolyte rich fluids while engaging in intense outdoor activities.

· Take a few breaks in between prolonged outdoor activities to avoid overexerting yourself. Take time to cool off in a shade and wear light and loose fitting clothes to help your body cool off.

· If it is your first time engaging in a vigorous outdoor activity, take it easy and don't try to do too much at once. Give your body time to get used to the activity as well as the environmental conditions.

· Avoid engaging in intense outdoor activities when temperatures are at their highest; instead, try to schedule these activities earlier or later on in the day.

Most of the time, heat injuries are very preventable. Be mindful of the weather conditions before going out and make sure that you always have enough fluids to keep your body well hydrated.

Kitchi Joyce is the Director of Administrative Services for Southern Orthopaedics Specialists, a full service Atlanta orthopedic practice specializing in orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine. Southern Orthopaedics Specialists has multiple locations around the Atlanta Metro area where doctors, physicians and medical staff help patients live and perform at the peak of their physical ability. Decades of experience, education and research means that all branches ofAtlanta orthopedics are covered, from cartilage restoration to spine care and sports medicine.

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