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In the News

Beat the Heat and Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses

By Dr. Victor Gong, Medical Director of 75th St. & 126th St. Medical, Ocean Pines Medical & Doctors Weight Control & Wellness centers, Ocean City, MD.

On a sweltering summer day, a 72 year old man with a 140 pulse, a 102.6 temperature and a history of heart disease presented in a stuporous condition from hyperthermia – an abnormally high body temperature.

To conserve energy, the man's family had not been running the air conditioner-even though the daytime heat index had been 100 degrees for the last few days.

Sadly, this scenario is common and can be life threatening. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 400 people die each year in the United States from exposure to high temperatures. And officials say most of these deaths are preventable.

As summer approaches and temperatures rise, it's important to know how to keep cool and to avoid the three most common heat-related illnesses: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps occur when muscles contract-usually after perspiring heavily. Surprisingly, drinking too much water actually can induce cramps because the water upsets the balance between salt and water in the body. If you get cramps, remove heavy clothing, get into a cool area and drink something with salt, such as Gatorade.

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, muscle aches, and normal or slightly increased body temperature.

As with heat cramps, take off any heavy clothing, find a cool place to relax and drink plenty of fluids. Go to the emergency room if symptoms persist, if you have a history of health problems or if you experience increased body temperature, confusion or vomiting.


Heatstroke is a life-threatening illness in which the body temperature usually exceeds 104 degrees. The body loses its ability to regulate temperature causing confusion or irritability, fainting and heavy breathing. dehydration occurs over a few days, leading to muscle breakdown and, eventually, multiple organ failure.

If someone is suffering from heatstroke, immediately call for emergency medical treatment. Before paramedics arrive, cover the person with cool, wet sheets, blow a fan across the sheets and place ice packs in the person's groin area, neck and armpits

Keep Your Cool

Here are a few tips to help you keep cool in the summer heat:

  • Dress in light-colored, loose clothing
  • Avoid direct sunlight
  • Avoid strenuous activity, especially during times of high humidity;
  • Take frequent breaks in a cool area
  • Drink plenty of fluids

Heat-related illnesses can strike quickly, and they're serious business. Take steps to avoid them, and plan to enjoy the warm weather ahead.

Get Keen on Sunscreen

With so many sunscreen products available, choosing the right one can be confusing. Here's some information to help you grease up with right salad.

Each product's protection level is indicated by its sun protection factor (SPF). The higher the SPF number, the longer you can stay in the sun without burning. For example, if you normally burn after 10 minutes, a sunscreen on SPF 15 will allow you to be in the sun 15 times longer before burning, or 150 minutes. SPF 15 provides average protection; if you are fair-skinned, sun-sensitive or taking medication that makes you burn more easily, you may need a higher SPF.

Apply sunscreen evenly and generously at least 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every 90 minutes if you are swimming or heavily perspiring. Protect your lips, eyes and scalp[ from the sun's damaging rays by wearing sunscreen-containing lip balm, UV-protectant sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.

Also, don't use sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old – keep babies out of the sun, and carefully monitor older children'sun exposure.

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