With Summer Heat Comes Heat Related Emergencies

“Every summer our paramedics come in contact with entirely too many heat related emergencies” according to Harvey L. Hall, President and Founder of Hall Ambulance Service; “Many of which are entirely preventable”.

Dr. Ron Ostrom, Hall’s Medical Director explained that heat related emergencies can be classified into two main categories, those being exertional and non-exertional.  Ostrom went on to explain that “The typical exertional heat illness patient is a young person who simply becomes overheated, frequently caused by not taking in enough fluids and/or excessive exposure to heat.”

The difference, according to Ostrom is that “The typical non-exertional patient might be elderly or medially frail, and the onset of symptoms might seem entirely unprovoked.” Ostrom added that “Certain medications can even cause a sensitivity to heat in the elderly”.

Dr. Ostrom is quick to point out that the best medicine for heat related emergencies is prevention. According to Ostrom, “Thirst is a late finding. It’s important to plan ahead, and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day”. Ostrom’s list of recommended fluids includes water, sports drinks, and juice. Caffeinated beverages should be avoided, as they can lead to further dehydration. He points out that an optimal balance of hydration varies from person to person, so it is important to follow your personal physician’s advice.

Another step to prevention is adequate cooling. Ostrom recommends that the elderly and medically frail spend as much time as possible in a cooler climate controlled environment on hot days. Some of the spots recommended by Ostrom to cool off include shopping malls, restaurants, libraries, and the county operated cooling centers (call 800-510-2020 for more info).

First aid for heat exposure involves obtaining help and beginning the cooling process. If you suspect that someone has been overcome by heat, Ostrom recommends calling 9-1-1 immediately. According to the doctor “Time is of the essence in preventing irreversible damage to the brain.” After calling 9-1-1 for assistance, it is important to begin the cooling process. To cool, Ostrom recommends moving the patient into a cool environment, removing any excess clothing, using spray bottles to mist water on the patient, and the application of damp towels.

“By following these simple steps, our hope is that everyone will have a safe and enjoyable summer” added Hall. More information on ways to ‘Beat The Heat’ can be found at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/.

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