2006-08-02 / Features

Protect Yourself From Heat Stroke

Sun exposure is our primary source of vitamin D, and it is important that we all get some sun exposure this summer. However, experts warn that while soaking up the sun, it is important to protect your skin from the sun's potentially harmful rays and its draining effects to prevent heat stroke. The Visiting Nurse Regional Health Care System (VNR) offers important information about heat strokes: who's at risk, symptoms and how to prevent it.

"To foster a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally, we encourage New Yorkers to get outside, exercise and to take full advantage of the wonderful summer weather. But, it is equally important to be mindful of the sun's power," VNR President and Chief Executive Officer Jane Gould said. "At VNR we are dedicated to bringing outstanding home health care to New Yorkers, and by offering summer safety tips we hope that our clients, friends and families enjoy the season safely."

What Causes Heat Stroke?

Simple answer: Humidity. If anyone knows humidity it is New Yorkers. Humidity prevents the evaporation of sweat, the body's natural cooling mechanism. When body temperatures reach 105 combined with failure to replenish lost fluids, the human body becomes more vulnerable to heat stroke.

Who Is At Risk?

Children, athletes, seniors and anyone with a chronic illness such as heart and lung problems or diabetes are at a higher risk of experiencing heat stroke.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms?

There are tell-tale signs that an individual is experiencing heat exhaustion or a heat stroke, including:

+ Heat rash and prickly heat in skin creases + Extreme perspiration

+ Sudden fatigue

+ Swelling. This often occurs in legs and ankles

There are more symptoms to look for, including: failure to sweat, rapid pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, seizures, redness, dry skin and unconsciousness.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should immediately seek medical attention.

How To Prevent Heat Stroke

Here are some quick and easy steps that can help prevent heat stroke:

+ Protect yourself from the sun. Prolonged exposure to sun can increase the chance of heat stroke. Hats with brims and sunscreen (at least SPF 15 is recommended) will not only help prevent heat stroke but can also help against skin cancer and other sun related illnesses.

+ Stay hydrated. Make sure to drink plenty of water. It is also wise to avoid sugar-filled fluids and alcoholic beverages.

+ Dress for the season. Lightweight and light-colored, loose fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics will help keep body temperatures low.

+ Stay cool. If you can, avoid the midday sun. The shade and air conditioned facilities are terrific places to keep your body temperatures cool during the summer's hottest days. Additionally, stay tuned to local news channels for weather and heat advisories.

+ Cooling Centers. Cooling centers are available throughout the New York metropolitan area, offering an air conditioned haven and sometimes medical assistance as well. To locate cooling centers call 311.

Gould recommends that those more prone to sun related illnesses and problematic conditions should seek a doctor's advice for additional preventative measures.

The Visiting Nurse Regional Health Care System is comprised of the Visiting Nurse Association of Brooklyn (VNAB) which was established in 1888, and Empire State Home Care Services. VNAB is the oldest certified home health agency in New York City and the fourth oldest in the United States. To learn more about what the VNR offers and how we can help you, visit www.vnrhcs.org.

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