Dr. Mark Whiteside, medical director at the Department of Health in Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys this morning on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about keeping cool in the heat.
Heat actually causes more deaths than any other extreme weather event.
Dr. Whiteside said, “It’s only getting worse. Just a little perspective, there’s been a gradual increase in both land and sea temperatures for several decades, basically, since the 1980s, very gradually, but you have to understand, most of the last 10 years, we’ve had some of the hottest years on record – 2016 was in fact, the hottest year ever recorded, maybe the hottest year in many thousands of years. Believe it or not, 2016 is now likely to be eclipsed by 2023. So it’s absolutely getting hotter. We know that. There’s no question about this, we’re entering a phase of fairly rapid manmade global warming. That is the new reality.”
Issues with heat can run the gamut from heat exhaustion to heat stroke.
Dr. Whiteside explained, “Heat exhaustion causes a number of symptoms, muscle cramps, sweating, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, headache. It’s a basically a continuum on to heat stroke, which is much more severe and it’s often characterized by mental status changes. You get disoriented, confused, this type of thing. That’s when you’re really in trouble and that becomes a medical emergency. The classic heatstroke occurs in older folks with underlying disease. I recently had a client passed away after her air conditioner basically calmed down. We assumed it was heatstroke.”
Exertional heat stroke is another issue with the illness.
Dr. Whiteside said it “can affect younger, healthier individuals. That’s why you don’t want to overdo and why there has to be guidelines as there are in Florida for high school athletes. You absolutely don’t want to overdo and heat stroke is not only the most common cause of death in extreme weather events but it’s preventable most the time. Many cases go under reported. If anything, it’s under reported.”
Pregnant women have to take special care in the heat.
Dr. Whiteside said, “Women who get overheated, you’re trying to stay cool for two or more, basically. So in the health department’s all about prevention. That’s really been our focus this summer is on prevention.”
Taking precautions is critical in the heat.
Dr. Whiteside said, “You want to go gradually. You don’t want to overdo. You want to take breaks, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Nothing more important. You want to absolutely minimize alcohol, caffeine, certain other drugs, obviously, diuretics, water pills, things like that, when you don’t have to have them. Light clothing, you want UV protection. They don’t talk a lot about that. But the UV can be extreme in mid-day and often was this summer. That can be very damaging. That’s increasing also. So you need your UV protection. Light clothing, seek shade, sun block.”
Even wide-brimmed hats can keep a person cool.
Dr. Whiteside said, “I never go out without a hat in the summertime or without sunglasses. Skin and eyes are very sensitive to the extreme UV. The other thing is check on those most vulnerable. Watch the kids in hot weather, elderly folks, relatives, people with a lot of chronic health conditions. You lose your air conditioner, you can be in trouble.”
Always remember to never leave animals or children in the car in the extreme heat – cracking a window just won’t do it.
So be sure to pay attention to what your body is telling you in this heat and get help and shade when you need it.