Tips for preventing and treating heat illnesses

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 600 people in the U.S. are killed by extreme heat every year.  

When it comes to preventing heat exhaustion and heat stroke, keeping an eye on the weather report is the first line of defense, according to Bon Secours Internal Medicine Physician Robert Richey. 

“I think 95 degrees would be the cut off as far as I’m concerned about any outdoor activity,” he says. “In the elderly on medication, I would say 85 degrees.”

Dehydration, he says, can lead to heat exhaustion, which is marked by dizziness and cold, clammy skin.

“When you stop sweating, that’s bad…. if they’re still conscious you can hydrate them”

An emergency situation is a heat stroke, a form of hyperthermia.

“When your temperature gets to 105 degrees, that’s hyperthermia. [When your temperature reaches] 106, 107 you’ll have permanent effects. You may become deaf for life,” he says. “If they’re unconscious you’ve got to cool them and get them somewhere they can be hydrated intravenously.”

Dr. Richey says to call 911 immediately if you notice the signs of heat stroke, which include not sweating, dry mouth, gargled speech or confusion and dry scorched skin.    

For most adults who aren’t exercising, he recommends swapping sports drinks for water and eating melons and oranges.

“They have plenty of potassium and magnesium and calcium which are the other electrolytes, we only think about sodium and chloride.”

According to the CDC, infants and children, adults over the age of 65, athletes, people working in the outdoors, and those with chronic illnesses like heart disease or high blood pressure are most at risk. 

In extremely hot temperatures, the CDC strongly recommends avoiding alcohol and caffeine and suggests checking in on any at risk older adults twice a day to watch for signs of heat stroke.

For more information on recognizing signs of heat illnesses, click here.

To hear more from experts at Bon Secours on this topic and others, listen every Saturday morning at 10am on 106.3 WORD radio.  

To submit your health questions for our series, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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