August 2010 :: Be Well For Life

SMH ER Doctor Offers Tips for Beating the Heat

Published Sunday Aug 1, 2010

PLYMOUTH, N.H.—  It is hot.  Having experienced cooler temperatures the last two summers, the hazy, hot and humid weather blanketing central New Hampshire has residents and visitors looking for ways to beat the heat.

“Evaporative cooling is the key to avoiding heat related illness,” says Dr. Dawn Richardson, emergency room physician at Speare Memorial Hospital.  “Squirt yourself down with a water bottle and sit in front of a box fan, or take frequent cool baths or showers.”  Dr. Richardson explains that it is the airflow over wet skin that helps the body cool itself.  If you don’t have air conditioning, keep your windows open and use a fan to both circulate the air and vent out the heat.  Also, consider doing activities where there is air conditioning:  go to the movies, visit a mall or get your grocery shopping done at your local supermarket.

Heat exhaustion, dehydration and breathing problems-the heat and humidity can make asthma and COPD worse-are the most common heat related illnesses treated in the emergency room.  In addition to the evaporative cooling, Dr. Richardson offers the following advice:

  • Drink lots of fluids.  Sports drinks, or a half and half mixture of water and sports drink, are good because they replace both fluids and electrolytes.
  • Exercise and walk pets early in the early morning when the air temperature is cooler.
  • Check on elderly relatives and neighbors.
  • Dress appropriately:  thin, breathable fabrics * Don’t leave anyone, or animals, in a parked car.  Body temperatures can rise dangerously in just minutes.
  • Know the signs of heat exhaustion- confusion, not sweating and lethargy- and push fluids to rehydrate the body.
  • Heat stoke is a serious illness that can lead to death.  If fever is present, combined with confusion, dehydration, difficulty breathing and lethargy, seek immediate medical attention.