Heat Wave

by Howard Gerber on August 9, 2011

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Many areas of the country are experiencing record high temperatures and heat waves, which have coincided with lack of rain making this one of the hottest summers in recent memory. This means that more people will be suffering from heat exhaustion and heat stroke than ever before. Your patients may come in feeling ill without realizing it is due to the heat and professionals who are used to pushing themselves for their patients may inadvertently overdue their efforts and make themselves ill.

Professionals

Many professionals spend time outdoors with their patients or clients. Nurses may walk patients outside in a nursing home, physical therapists may have obstacle courses outside, home health nurses may visit patients in poorly cooled environments, and teachers supervise students in a variety of outdoor activities. Regardless of why you are exposed to a hot environment, it is important that you take the necessary measures to remain cool.

Stay Cool

There is a variety of ways to remain cool even in hot environments.

  • Clothing – wear loose, light colored and lightweight clothing to increase air circulation and allow sweat to easily evaporate.
  • Sunburn – Apply sunscreen every morning. A sunburn makes it more difficult for your body to let go of heat.
  • Fluids – Drink more fluid than usual. You must be well hydrated to sweat, which helps your body cool off naturally.
  • Cooling Clothing – Cooling vests are an option if you know you will be working outside extensively, but these can be expensive.
  • Ventilation – if you are going to be in an outdoor area use fans to circulate air which can make it easier for your body to maintain the correct body temperature.

Patients

Patients may come into emergency rooms, nursing homes, physical therapy offices, schools, or pharmacies with heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  If you see that your patient, client, or student is exhibiting symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, immediately work to lower their body temperature and hydrate them while seeking further medical treatment.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can occur suddenly or may result after days of exposure to high temperatures.

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Heavy sweating
  • Low blood pressure after standing
  • Moist skin that is cool to the touch even in the heat
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Rapid pulse
  • Weak pulse

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • Body temperature of 104 F or greater
  • Hot, dry skin if condition brought on by climate
  • Hot, moist skin if condition brought on by physical exertion
  • Flushed skin as temperature rises
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Strong pulse and racing heart
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty understanding others
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle weakness

Do you see many patients who present with heat exhaustion or heat stroke? What are some challenges you’ve faced in your work when it comes to extreme heat?

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