The summer months are close and it is already heating up outside. There are ways to stay cool when things get hot. In general, stay in cool places, eat regular light meals, drink plenty of fluids and avoid coffee, tea and alcohol. Also, it is important to recognize the warning signs of heat-related illness and ways to prevent it. According to the Ohio Mental Health & Addiction Services organization, although anyone can be affected by heat-related issues, the elderly, the very young, and individuals with medical problems including those with psychiatric disorders and addictions are especially susceptible.
Some medical conditions and medications can affect body temperature. They can make the body overheat, especially during hot and humid weather. When this happens, heat-related illness can cause death if not treated. Heart disease, high blood pressure, alcohol use, obesity, respiratory disease and diabetes can make heat more dangerous. Many medications, including almost all psychotropic medications, diuretics and water pills, amphetamines and beta-blockers decrease the body’s response to heat. Illegal drugs including hallucinogens, cocaine, stimulants, steroids, bath salts and others also decrease the body’s response to heat. Alcohol, sedatives and opioids are drugs that decrease awareness of heat-related illness. In other words, they numb the body to temperature changes and you may not know you are in danger.
Heat exhaustion is a mild form of heat-related illness. It can occur while working, playing or resting. Some symptoms include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness or fainting, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting. If overcome by heat exhaustion, call a doctor and move to a cooler place, drink water, rest, take a cool shower and loosen clothing.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Body temperature cannot be controlled, so the temperature rises quickly. The body is not able to sweat, and as a result, cannot cool down. Heat stroke symptoms include confusion, unconsciousness, dizziness, nausea, rapid strong pulse, throbbing headache and red, hot, dry skin. If overcome by heat stroke, call 911 and seek treatment right away. Loosen or remove clothing, move to a cooler spot, offer fluids only if he or she can talk, and use water to cool the person.
As the warmer months approach, the temperature rises, and spending more time outdoors is the norm, remember to take care of yourself and your families. Refer to our website at www.pcmhrb.org for more information on heat related illnesses, prevention, and a list of medications that may impair the body’s response to heat.