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Don’t sweat it

Avoiding heat-related illness

July 19, 2012
By GARRETT NEESE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - There can be too much of a good thing - even the sun.

After varying amounts of overexposure and exertion, even the hardiest person can succumb to heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

Heat stroke is more likely in extreme heat; other factors can also apply.

Article Photos

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Nichole Este of Dollar Bay gives a bottle to her niece, Aleena Banister, also of Dollar Bay, at the Ray Kestner Waterfront Park pavilion in Houghton. Staying ut of the sun and hydrating are two of the recommended ways to avoid heat-related issues such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

"Obviously, 90 degrees and above is going to be the greatest risk,' said Dawn Nulf, emergency medicine physician at Portage Health. "Humidity, limited air circulation, added to that is going to be a factor."

Heat-related illnesses claim about 700 lives per year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Symptoms run along a continuum. In the initial stages, there can be fatigue, a feeling of thirst, sweating or faster breathing as the body tries to burn off heat. As it becomes more serious, lightheadness and fatigue increase, the heart rate goes up; meanwhile, sweating will decrease as the body becomes dehydrated.

The final stage is heat stroke, generally defined as the body's temperature reaches 104 degrees. Unlike milder hat-related problems, heat strokes can jeopardize the body's functions, resulting in hallucinations, seizures, comas and even death.

The first and easiest step to avoiding heat stroke is to stay away from hot environments, particularly when coupled with strenuous activity, Nulf said.

If people do spend time outside, they should stay well-hydrated.

"Hydration is generally fine with most activities using just water," she said.

"If you are going to be exposed for a prolonged time, or doing strenuous acitivities, you would not want to just drink water, but an electrolyte solution, like Gatorade."

If people are engaging in physical activity, they should make sure they have the appropriate level of physical fitness. They should also make sure they don't go further out than their abilities allow, or where they won't be able to escape from unfavorable conditions.

"Don't put yourself in a position where you can't get out," she said.

Thankfully, not many people have needed to come to Portage for treatment, Nulf said.

"You would think there'd be quite a few, but we don't see that many, maybe just a few cases per month - three cases per month, which is good," she said. "Most people are doing the right things, taking care of themselves."



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