by Catherine Brzozowski
Summer is here. Before you head out, prepare for health woes that occur more frequently during the next several months. Local emergency medicine expert Dr. Lee Jablow, medical director of the emergency department at Chestnut Hill Hospital, suggests a few tips to help keep you and your family out of the ER and into fun.
As temperatures soar, so does the likelihood of heat-related deaths. During a summer heat wave, emergency rooms fill up with people suffering from heat-related illness, including heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Preventing heat-related illness is especially important for people under the age of 4, over 65 and anyone who has a preexisting medical condition, or lives in a home without air conditioning.
Heat affects both body and mind. Heat exhaustion, the precursor to heatstroke, is a direct result of the body overheating. When the body core temperature elevates significantly, heat stroke can occur suddenly and without any symptoms of heat exhaustion.
“Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat-injury and if left untreated can result in death. A patient admitted to the emergency room with heat stroke is treated the same as a patient with a heart attack, stroke, or even trauma,” Jablow said.
Seek medical care immediately if a person is experiencing symptoms such as confusion or anxiety, very rapid or dramatically slowed heartbeat, rapid rise in body temperature that reaches 104 degrees to 106 degrees Fahrenheit, convulsions, drenching sweats, or any other heat-related symptom that is not alleviated by moving to a cooler place and administering fluids and salts.
“The best ways to protect yourself from too much heat include staying cool and hydrated, and informed: pay attention to heat advisories, drink plenty of fluids, wear cool clothing and seek air conditioning during extreme heat,” Jablow said. “Avoid extended periods in direct sun and remember to apply and reapply a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily with a minimum of SPF 30.”
Too much time in the sun is linked to everything from sunburns to heat-related illness, long-term skin damage and even skin cancer. Stay hydrated and replace lost sodium by drinking sports drinks that help to replace salt and retain fluid.
In addition to heat-related illnesses and sun damage, traumatic injuries steadily increase during warmer months. One of the most common summer activities, bicycling, is responsible for a significant rise in head injuries as a direct result of bicycle accidents. Utilize proper protective wear, such as a helmet, and take caution when sharing the road with motor vehicles. If you fall or hit your head, closely monitor symptoms. Concussions are on the rise in the U.S., especially in children ages 10 to 19.
Symptoms of a concussion include: headache or feeling of pressure in the head, temporary loss of consciousness, confusion or feeling in a fog, amnesia surrounding the traumatic event, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea or vomiting. There’s no specific cure for concussion. Rest and restricting activities allow the brain to recover.
Make safety a priority this summer so you can enjoy the sweetness of the season! At Chestnut Hill Hospital, we understand that the faster you receive care, the better your outcome can be. Many medical conditions are considered emergencies because they require rapid, advanced treatments that are only available in a hospital setting. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, immediately call 911. To learn more about the Chestnut Hill Hospital emergency department and our 30-minute E.R. Advantage, visit chestnuthill.towerhealth.org/services/emergency
Catherine Brzozowski is the marketing and publications director of Chestnut Hill Hospital.