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Hydration is Key to Preventing Heat Related Illnesses

Despite recent break in record heat, dehydration is still possible

Post Date:07/12/2012 3:30 PM

DURHAM, N.C. – Although the Triangle has been granted a temporary reprieve from the record breaking, triple-digit heat, heat related illnesses can still occur and have a major impact on health. When temperatures and humidity are high, it is easy to become dehydrated or get overheated.

To beat the summer heat, the Durham County Health Department has a few tips to help you beat the heat during the summer:

• To stay hydrated, drink more water than usual. Don’t wait until you are thirsty.

• If you are going to be active during the heat of the day, pre-hydrate. Thirty minutes before activity, drink until you are no longer thirsty plus another eight ounces. If you weigh less than 90 pounds, drink five ounces for every 20 minutes of activity. If you weigh more than 90 pounds, drink eight ounces for every 20 minutes of activity.

• Stay away from alcohol and sugar sweetened beverages such as soda. These will only cause you to lose more body fluid.

• Use your air conditioning or go to a nearby building with air conditioning, such as your local library or shopping mall. 

• Exercise during cooler periods early in the morning or late in the day or in an air conditioned facility, if possible.

• Wear lightweight and light colored clothing.

• Heat and humidity can damage medication and supplies. If you use medical supplies, do not leave them in a hot car or outdoors. Also, protect any medication you take from the heat.

• If you have a medical condition or take medication, ask your physician for further advice for preventing heat-related illnesses.

It is very important for people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes to take important steps to protect their health, especially in extreme heat. Those with chronic diseases, the elderly, and the very young are at higher risk for heat related illnesses. Getting too hot can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Symptoms for heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale, and clammy skin, a fast, weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. If you notice that you or someone else has these symptoms, move to a cool place, loosen clothing, apply wet cloths all over the body, and begin sipping water or sports drinks for dehydration. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen.

When the body cannot cool itself down, heat stroke can occur. Symptoms can range from high body temperature (above 104°F), hot, red, dry or moist skin, rapid and strong pulse, dizziness and possible unconsciousness. In this case, call 911 immediately as suspected heatstroke is a true life-threatening, medical emergency. While waiting for an ambulance, move yourself or the person to a cooler place and try to lower body temperature with cool cloths. Give cool beverages only if a person is alert and can tolerate it.

By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of heat related illness and increase your enjoyment of summer.

For more information on keeping cool in hot weather, visit or contact the Durham County Health Department at (919) 560-7600.

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