Many people may not realize that heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, can come on gradually, over several days. Doctors in the adult and pediatric emergency departments (ED) at Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) see several cases every week for heat-related illness in July and August. During a heat wave, the AAMC ED sees several patients each day suffering heat-related health problems.
“We want people to be aware of the physical damage posed by extreme heat. On a sunny summer day, the last thing a child wants to think about is sitting still in the shade. Outdoor workers can get consumed with getting the job done without regard to the dangerous heat levels,” says Mike Remoll, MD, assistant chief of the emergency department at AAMC.
According to the Maryland Department of Health, those most at risk are children under age 5, people over age 65, people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, and people taking certain medication.
Dr. Remoll offers these five simple tips for adults and children to prevent a visit to the ED:
1. Get everyone out of the car. Don’t leave infants, pets or children inside a parked car — even for 30 seconds.
2. Skip caffeinated drinks. During outdoor activities, take frequent breaks and drink water or other fluids every 15 to 20 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Drink water or other cool drinks with no alcohol or caffeine.
3. Feel the cool air. When the heat index is high, stay inside an air conditioned home or building as much as possible. If you have an outdoor chore, get it done early in the morning.
4. Take a cool shower or bath. Fans will not prevent a heat-related illness.
5. Check on the vulnerable. Look after adults you know that are at-risk for heat-related illness at least twice a day and make sure they have access to tools to stay cool.
For more information about heat illnesses and prevention visit AAMC’s health library.