COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — With temperatures ranging from the high 80s to the high 70s all week and summer just around the corner, hot-weather safety is crucial. The National Weather Service reports high heat can lead to mild to severe issues including heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
With temperatures above 80 degrees and humidity above 40 percent, the National Weather Service advises people should use extreme caution with prolonged exposure to these conditions or when doing strenuous activity outside.
“As the temperature rises, our body’s metabolism also increases with resultant increases in our respiratory rates,” said Piedmont Columbus Regional primary care physician Dr. Daryl Ellis. He said, “With each exhale, we lose a small amount of fluid in the form of water vapor. The higher the temps, the more rapid the breathing, the more significant this form of fluid loss becomes.”
One way to mitigate this fluid loss is drinking water. According to UnityPoint Health, water should be the primary beverage for hydration, as opposed to an electrolyte sports drink. The website advises such products should be used during high-intensity exercise which lasts longer than an hour.
If not hydrated sufficiently, individuals may suffer heat illness, including diagnoses like heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. According to the National Weather Service, these conditions result when the body is unable to cool down effectively and/or has lost either fluid or salt content due to sweating or dehydration. Heat cramps and exhaustion are treatable at home by giving fluids and moving to a cooler environment, however the National Weather Service warns medical attention should be sought if symptoms of each last more than an hour.
In cases of heat cramps and exhaustion, Ellis said it was important to drink isotonic liquids like Gatorade, Powerade and Pedialyte to rehydrate quickly.
Ellis noted heat stroke is a serious medical condition which requires immediate action if it happens.
“If symptoms of [heat stroke, including] confusion, decreased alertness, severe muscle cramping occur, this has progressed to an emergency situation and Emergency intervention is necessary,” the doctor said.
Groups which are particularly susceptible to heat include those with outdoor jobs, athletes, pregnant women, children and more, according to HEAT.gov. Parents especially should be mindful of children’s’ activities in hot weather conditions, as their bodies regulate less efficiently than adults’ and they oftentimes lack the knowledge to protect themselves, the website states.
Tweets from the National Weather Service’s Atlanta branch on the morning of May 17 from noted there were 33 pediatric vehicular heat stroke deaths in 2022 when children were left in hot cars, according to noheatstroke.org. The tweet states an average of 38 children die after left unattended in cars each year, with 88 percent under the age of three and more than one-in-two due to being forgotten by a caregiver. Noheatstroke.org warns never to leave children alone in a vehicle, along with other safety recommendations.
To minimize the effects of heat, Ellis advised people to take frequent breaks when outside and hydrate before, during and after outdoor activities. He also had a counterintuitive attire recommendation: wear a hat and long sleeves.
“It seems somewhat contradictory, but the less exposed your skin is exposed to the sun, the cooler your body actually is and the less likely you are to develop dehydration and/or heat stroke,” said Ellis.
The CDC recommends people drink eight fluid ounces of water every 15-20 minutes when working outside in the heat. However, it also warns consuming more than 48 fluid ounces of any liquid in an hour is dangerous. The CDC also advises drinking water slowly over a period of time rather than in a single instance for more effective hydration.
In general, Piedmont Columbus Regional recommended in a press release, women should intake about 92 ounces of fluid a day and 124 for men. This numeral factors in fluids from foods and beverages besides water commonly consumed. The press release notes about 20 percent of the water people intake is from food, while the other 80 percent from beverages.