|Vol. 24, No. 10||June 1, 2002|
Temperature Rising? Could be Heat Stroke
by JACQUELINE PRESTON
The University of Texas
Health Science Center at Houston
The "good olí summertime" may not be so good if summerís scorching heat gets you down. A professor at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston warns that triple-digit temperatures can be deadly if adequate precautions are not taken.
"Itís no secret that Houston is one of the hottest and most humid cities in the country and has the toughest environment in which to keep cool," said Dr. Brent King, chairman of emergency medicine at UT-Houston. "Heat illness sets in when our bodiesí natural cooling mechanism is shut down, preventing sweat from evaporating off our skin to cool us off."
Last year, more than 140 Texans died of heat-related illness. The most vulnerable are the elderly, young children, people with other illnesses, or those without access to air conditioning.
Heat strokes are life threatening, Dr. King said, because the bodyís temperature control and perspiration systems shut down, preventing the body from cooling down. Heat stroke can start off as heat exhaustion, which typically occurs during physical activity in a hot, humid environment.
Early warning signs of heat-related illness include heavy sweating, dehydration, muscle cramps, tiredness, dizziness and faintness. More severe symptoms like hot, inflamed skin, throbbing headache, nausea, rapid heart beat, delirium and unconsciousness can occur and be fatal if left untreated.
Dr. King said the best defense is prevention.
"Stay indoors and, if possible, stay in an air-conditioned place," he advised. "Electric fans may provide some relief, but if the temperature is near 100 degrees, fans wonít prevent heat-related illness."
King offers more tips on how to keep cool:
©2006 Texas Medical Center