HCA Midwest Health - June 15, 2015
by Crystal Murphy, Certified Nurse Midwife, Specialists in Women’s Care/Lee’s Summit Medical Center

Be aware of the heat, bites and bumps that can interrupt the fun with this Summer 101 primer.

Summertime and the living is easy—and while you may not think of lazy days of sun-and-fun as ones for injuries and sickness, remember that injuries shift along with the seasons. Whether it’s temperatures rising, exercising in the heat, preparing kids for camps or hiking, signs and symptoms of distress can occur quickly. At HCA Midwest Health, we treat a lot of adults and kids during the summer months for everything from bug bites to sunburn and heat exhaustion to scrapes and bruises and want to help keep you healthy and active and out of the Emergency Room.

And being pregnant during the hot, humid summer months can be a recipe for misery—but there are ways to cope.

Here are some prevention tips for having a safe, enjoyable summer.

*Heat and sun. When outdoor temperatures rise, the heart has to beat faster and work harder to pump blood to the surface of your skin to assist with sweating to cool your body. If your body can’t cool itself enough, strain is put on the heart, and organs can begin to suffer damage—a potentially fatal condition known as heat stroke. Adults and children are susceptible to heat exhaustion that can lead to heat stroke, but people with heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases are at greater risk, along with pregnant women.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

If you experience the following symptoms, apply cool water to your skin immediately and seek immediate medical attention.

  • High fever
  • Hot, dry skin without sweating
  • Pounding pulse
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion 

Heat exhaustion is a form of heat sickness that can lead to heat stroke. The symptoms include:

  • Heavy sweating with cool, clammy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Fainting

Staying Safe in the Heat

Pregnant women already have some degree of heat intolerance. If the heat index (meaning how hot the temperature feels because of the combination of heat and humidity) is in the 90s, that's a good day to be indoors as much as possible with the air conditioning turned on. A cool, damp washcloth applied to the back of your neck, your forehead, or the top of your head is also a good way to keep your body temperature down. Don’t drink too much water though—over-hydration can dilute your electrolytes even more, and can cause fatigued muscles, cramps, and in severe cases, unconsciousness.

Kids can suffer from heat-related illnesses, too, so remember to keep them hydrated and use common sense when it comes to playing outdoors in extreme heat.

A few simple tips can help you prevent both heat exhaustion and life-threatening heat stroke. Remember, while heat stroke may happen after only a short time in high temperatures, heat exhaustion results from days of exposure to high heat and can progress to heat stroke. Heat waves—long periods of hot weather—can make you ill more slowly and make it harder for you to realize the seriousness of your symptoms. Be mindful of how you feel each day during a heat wave.

  • Avoid vigorous physical activity in high heat. No task or exercise program is worth risking your life for.  Make plans to complete a task when the weather cools. Move your exercise program to an indoor gym or pool.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water and sports drinks that contain electrolytes. Water is critical to all functions in your body. Electrolytes not only help balance hydration in your body, they also help keep the body’s natural electrical system that governs your heartbeat working correctly. 
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. These beverages can contribute to dehydration. Alcohol, antihistamines, and antidepressants can all have a dehydrating effect.
  • Wear light-colored, lightweight clothing that reflects the sun’s rays, rather than absorbing them like dark clothing. Heavyweight fabrics will trap body heat in, while lightweight fabrics allow heat to escape and better allow for your natural sweating processes to cool you off.
  • Don’t go outside without sunblock. Apply sunblock before you go outside. Sunburn can make it harder for your body to stay cool. 

*Ticks and bites. Lyme disease is one of the most common illnesses caused by tiny ticks and can cause big problems. After a campout, hike or time spent in wooded areas, check for pesky ticks. Symptoms of being infected by a bacteria-carrying tick include a single bull’s-eye rash, body-wide itching, fever, chills, muscle pain, stiff neck and headache. Symptoms can come and go. If untreated, Lyme disease can spread to the brain, heart, and joints; prescribed treatment are antibiotics.

*Broken bones, bumps and bruises. The first rule of safe skateboarding, bicycling or even maneuvering razor scooters is to be outfitted with the proper headgear. Ensure you and your child have appropriate helmets that fit and are worn each time you hit the trail, road or skate park. Next, follow the rules and avoid high-speeds or, for kids, airborne tricks.