Staying Safe in Hot Weather

Tom Waters, MD, has tips for avoiding heat illness when temperatures soar – and reminds us to continue COVID-19 precautions when cooling off in public places.

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Many parts of the country are experiencing sweltering heat and when the mercury soars, heat illness becomes a danger.

Tom Waters, MD, an emergency department physician at Cleveland Clinic, said a heat emergency is most common when temperatures rise and humidity is high.

“It creates the right environment for acute heat illness and that can range anywhere from heat cramps to what we call heat exhaustion and all the way on the far end of the spectrum is something we call heat stroke, which is an acute life threatening emergency,” he said.

Dr. Waters said people at greatest risk for heat illness include young children, the elderly, and people exercising or working outdoors.

According to Dr. Waters, feeling thirsty is the first sign of dehydration and possible heat illness.

Other early signs include heat cramps, nausea, dizziness and vomiting.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to cool down and hydrate.

If you’re spending a lot of time in the heat, he recommends taking breaks every 30 to 60 minutes and finding shade, or air conditioning.

For people who seek heat relief at a public air conditioned spot – remember to also protect yourself from COVID-19.

“It’s important to follow all local regulations as far as COVID and if you’re out in public you should be wearing a mask, you should be social distancing, you should be washing your hands frequently and avoid touching your face,” said Dr. Waters.

He adds that anyone who seems confused after spending time in the heat should be cooled down immediately and taken to an emergency department, because confusion is a sign of heat stroke, which can be life threatening.

He said people should not be afraid to go to an ER because of COVID-19, as hospitals have put a number of measures in place to keep patients safe.

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