What's Going Around: heat-related illnesses

Published: Jun. 23, 2016 at 11:01 AM CDT
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SULPHUR, LA (KPLC) - The scorching heat has turned dangerous for people whose jobs require them to work outside or in poorly-ventilated environments.  Workers are being treated every day in local emergency departments for heat-related illnesses, according to Dr. Syed Shah, medical director of the West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital emergency department.

Dr. Shah says he's treating two categories of heat-related illnesses: heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

"Symptoms of heat exhaustion are that one would feel weak, nausea, vomiting," he said.  "People tend to be cool and clammy, although it's a heat-related illness."

Dr. Shah says patients are being seen every day for heat-related illnesses.  He says the bulk of those being treated are men working in construction zones, who have gotten dangerously overheated, moving from heat exhaustion to the rare, but very dangerous condition of heat stroke.

"One can be comatosed, one can have high temperature, and your pulse will be fast and bounding," said Dr. Shah.

Immediate emergency care is needed if those symptoms occur.  Call 9-1-1 or get to the closest emergency department.    

"Once the patient is here, we immediately make arrangements to cool such a patient, remove his clothing and try to start some intravenous fluids, correct his dehydration, treat his nausea, vomiting, the electrolyte balance," said Dr. Shah.

Next to workers in hot zones, the very young, and those over age 65, are the most susceptible to these heat illnesses.  Dr. Shah recommends these preventative steps:

"Keep well hydrated, be indoors as much as possible, and if you are outside, make sure that you're drinking plenty of liquids or fluids and don't wait until you're thirsty," said Dr. Shah.

One of the earliest signs of a heat-related illness is cramping when outdoors.  Dr. Shah says if you have been out in the heat, it is important to listen to your body and notice those warning signs.

If you are experiencing nausea, dizziness, heavy sweating, or weakness, move to a cooler location.  Lie down and loosen your clothing.  Sip water and do not return to your activities until your symptoms have stopped.

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