September 3, 2015 --
This “Ask the Doc” column addresses the prevention of heat-related illness. "Ask the Doc" is written by Naval Hospital
Jacksonville, Florida, providers from its hospital and five branch health
clinics in Florida and Georgia.
Question: What is heat illness or heat-related
Answer: Heat-related illness is defined as a spectrum
of disorders caused when someone is subjected to extreme temperatures and
humidity and his or her body is unable to compensate and properly cool down.
These disorders range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat
exhaustion and heat stroke. When people
get hot, their bodies cool down through the evaporation of sweat. However under
extreme heat conditions, sometimes individuals’ bodies’ natural sweating — and
its evaporation — just may not be enough to cool down and the body temperature
can increase to dangerous levels if precautions aren’t taken.
Question: What are some of the warning signs?
Answer: Warning signs can include red bumps on the
skin, prickly or itchy skin, elevated pulse, headaches, significant sweating,
involuntary spasms of the muscles, cramps and aches, paleness, nausea and
vomiting, dizziness and fatigue.
Other warning signs — usually associated with heat stroke — such
as excessive hot and dry skin, very high body temperatures, confusion, seizures
and unconsciousness require immediate medical attention and can result in
Question: Who is at risk?
Answer: Heat-related illness can affect anyone. However
athletes and people who exercise and work outdoors in extreme heat are at
higher risk of being affected.
Also at high risk are infants and children up to 4 years of
age; people, 65 years or older; people who are overweight and those with chronic
medical conditions or on certain medications.
Question: How can individuals protect themselves against
The best defense is
* Increase fluid intake — drink more water than usual and don’t
wait until thirsty.
* Replace salt and minerals lost through heavy sweating and
avoid alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar.
* Schedule outdoor activities carefully, and when partaking in
outdoor activities try to avoid direct sunlight when possible.
* Wear appropriate clothing and use sunscreen with an SPF of 15
During extreme heat conditions, stay cool indoors whenever
possible and monitor those who are at higher risk.
Heat-related deaths and illness are preventable. Learn to
recognize the signs of heat illness and what to do in case of an
For more information, visit your primary care
manager or call Health Promotions at 229-639-9535.