Lawrence doctor, vet provide tips on avoiding, treating heat exhaustion and heat stroke
- on June 28, 2011
It’s going to be hot, hot, hot.
Kelsey Angle, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said temperatures are going to reach triple digits Thursday with a heat index of 105.
And the heat is sticking around. The NWS has issued an excessive heat watch for Douglas County from Thursday to Saturday.
“People should take appropriate precautions because the heat will build this week and last through the weekend,” Angle said.
Doctors and veterinarians warn that people need to take the heat very seriously because it can be fatal.
Dr. Charles Yockey, of Lawrence Memorial Hospital, said those most at-risk are the elderly, outdoor laborers and athletes.
He said the elderly don’t perspire as much as younger adults and because they aren’t perspiring they may not recognize how hot they are.
And younger adults may actually perspire so much that they become dehydrated.
Yockey’s tips for avoiding heat exhaustion:
• Take precautionary measures: Drink plenty of water, avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, wear loose-fitting and light-colored clothing and limit outdoor activities to early morning or late evening if possible.
• Know the warning signs: Urinating less frequently, light-headedness, dizziness, rapid heart beat, nausea and muscle cramps.
• Treatment: Rehydrate with water or a sports drink, get rid of unnecessary clothes, use cool moist cloths to cool skin and use a fan. Don’t do any physical activity for the rest of the day.
Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. That’s when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. The sweating mechanism fails, the body is unable to cool down, and temperature may rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. If this happens, call 911 immediately.
“That’s basically where your brain thermostat goes berserk and nothing works right. It’s a true critical medical emergency with a very high mortality rate,” Yockey said.
Watch out for furry friends
For pets, the heat can be just as deadly.
Mary Berg, veterinary technician at Gentle Care Animal Hospital, said it’s best to keep pets indoors in the air-conditioning if possible. Walks should be taken in the early morning and evening.
Dogs can burn their paws on the hot sidewalks, so walk them in the grass.
“If you wouldn’t walk on it barefoot, then you probably don’t want your pet walking on it,” she said.
If dogs are outdoors, make sure they have plenty of shade and cool water. She said misters, fans and kiddie pools also are good ways to help keep dogs cool.
• Leave them in a car. “You would be surprised how many of those we see, and cracking windows isn’t going to cut it,” she said.
• Take them on a run in the middle of the day.
“I always remind people that it would be like us wearing a winter coat out in this weather,” she said.
The warning signs that your dog may be overheated include extremely red gums, rapid heart beat, rapid breathing, exaggerated panting, excessive drooling, vomiting and disorientation. They may not be able to get up.
“It’s basically the same symptoms we have with heat stroke,” she said.
Berg said to call a vet if a pet is showing symptoms. The vet can provide advice on whether to treat it with a cool bath at home or whether they need emergency care.