As Philadelphia heads into another day of high temperatures, the National Weather Service has declared an “excessive heat warning” in the region until 6 p.m. tonight. Health experts warn that extreme heat is more than unpleasant — it can be extremely dangerous. Rich Hamilton, MD, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine, offers pointers on how to avoid heat-related illness.
Who is most at risk in extreme heat?
The elderly, infants and anyone who is on medication that might enhance dehydration, such as diuretics.
What are the most common health effects of extreme heat?
Dehydration is the main problem. This leads to a worsening of many other conditions and situations.
Should healthy adults avoid exercising outdoors during a heat wave?
It’s possible to exercise in the heat, but it needs to be done with lower intensity, for a shorter duration and with special attention to fluids and electrolytes.
For those who must be outside during extreme heat, what tips can they use to prevent heat-related illness?
Don’t wait for signs of dehydration to drink fluids. You don’t need a sport drink — water is fine as long as you are having some food as well. If you have not urinated in many hours or your urine is dark, you might be dehydrated.
What are some signs that someone is suffering from heat-related illness, and when should he/she visit the emergency room?
Exhaustion, extreme fatigue, acting abnormally and muscle cramps are just a few signs. Go to the emergency room if you feel like you need attention, and especially if getting into a cool place and drinking fluids do not improve your symptoms.
For people who have homes or cars without air conditioning, how can they stay healthy during a heat wave?
A wet washcloth around the neck can allow for evaporative cooling. Drinking very cold liquids can be helpful. Limit your activities as much as you can during the peak hours of heat (mid-day to early evening).