What's Going Around: heat-related illnesses - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

What's Going Around: heat-related illnesses

It has been a hot summer, and while the heat index is slightly lower this week thanks to a front, temperatures are consistently over 90 degrees every afternoon.  The heat is bringing more people to the doctor and emergency room with heat-related illnesses, according to Dr. Jason Hagen with the DeRidder Family Health Clinic.

Student athletes practicing for fall sports are at risk of developing a heat-related illness, and so are the many people who work outside during the hot Louisiana summer months - from construction and road workers to the military.  "There is a spectrum of heat-related illnesses," said Dr. Hagen, "from basically if you could imagine green light, yellow light, red light.  Green light is your typical cramps, you might get a heat rash.  Then you start getting into heat exhaustion when you start getting fatigued, nauseated, vomiting."

If you notice that someone is experiencing the signs of heat exhaustion, you need to get help immediately.  

The next and scariest of all heat-related illnesses is heat stroke. "That's when you start seeing a temperature elevation, upwards of 104 degrees, and then altered mental status," said Dr. Hagen.

Dr. Hagen says at that point, it is a medical emergency and cooling down the body immediately is a life-saving measure that needs to be taken.  "Basically, if you have a tub of ice, getting them in there," he said, "or if you don't have that, you can get some bags of ice, put it on the groin, the underarms and on the neck.  Get them to a cool room and get them cooled off as soon as possible."

If the person suffering from heat stroke is not cooled off and given immediate medical attention, brain damage - even death can occur. 

Prevention is all about staying hydrated, taking breaks in the shade and trying to avoid the hottest parts of the day.

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