Beyond Burns: Lifetime Health Doctor Offers Sun and Heat Safety Advice
Sun Poisoning, Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion, and Heat Stroke:
Recognize the Signs, Know What To Do
Temperatures are up, and families should be aware of dangers from sun and heat beyond that of the average sunburn.
Jesenia Cruz, M.D., family medicine physician at Lifetime Health Medical Group offers families some quick tips on beating the heat and staying safe in the sun.
General Sun Safety and Sun Poisoning
"We all like to get out and enjoy the sun, but it’s important to remember safety precautions, and avoid severe sunburns or sun poisoning," says Cruz.
Make sure to:
- Wear sunscreen, no matter what your skin type. Dermatologists recommend a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
- Stay out of the sun at peak times of the day. The sun is strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. You can also cover up with protective clothing.
- Recognize symptoms of sun poisoning. Signs include a very painful sunburn, nausea, dizziness, headache, fever, skin that is hot to the touch, itchy or peeling.
If symptoms of sun poisoning accompany the burn, Cruz suggests following recommendations from the Mayo Clinic:
- Stay out of the sun and in a cool place.
- Take anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen according to the instructions on the label. Check with your medical provider regarding proper dosage for children or adolescents, adds Cruz.
- Use a cool compress on your skin or take a cool (but not cold) bath.
- Soothe the affected skin by applying a moisturizing lotion, aloe or low-dose hydrocortisone cream (0.5 percent to 1 percent). However, warns Cruz, use hydrocortisone creams sparingly on the face.
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Seek medical attention if you have a high fever, vomiting, confusion, extreme pain, or if the condition is not responding to at-home remedies after a few days.
“It’s not just the sun that families need to be careful about, summertime activities can put
you at risk for heat-related illnesses too,” says Cruz.
According to the American Red Cross, the most common heat-related illnesses are:
- Heat Cramps: When the loss of water and salt through sweating causes muscle cramps or spasms, usually in the stomach or legs.
- Heat Exhaustion: When fluids are lost through heavy sweating due to exercise or working in high temperatures. Sweat does not evaporate as it should, and as a result, the body cannot cool properly. Symptoms include heavy sweating, flushed or red skin, headache, dizziness and nausea.
- Heat Stroke: When the body’s temperature control system stops working. Brain damage or death can occur if body temperature rises high enough. Symptoms include vomiting, decreased alertness, high body temperature, rapid, weak pulse, and rapid, shallow breathing.
Cruz suggests families follow these tips from the Red Cross to prevent heat-related illness:
- Stay hydrated. Drink water throughout the day, even when you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid drinks that will dehydrate you, including caffeine and alcohol.
- Slow down and take breaks. Avoid tiring activities and take time out during physical activity to let yourself cool down.
- Dress for the heat. Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing.
- Eat small meals, more often. Foods high in protein can increase metabolic heat.
Treatment for Heat Cramps and Heat Exhaustion
Heat cramps and heat exhaustion can be treated by getting the victim to a cool place and giving a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. Take off or loosen any tight clothes, and apply cool cloths to the victim. For heat cramps, the affected muscle can be gently stretched or massaged.
Heat stroke can be fatal, so act quickly! Call 911or a local emergency number, and move
the person to a cooler place and lay them down. Wrap wet sheets around the victim and place ice packs on their wrists, ankles, armpits and neck. Make sure the victim stays lying down.
Heat illnesses can strike virtually anyone, but the elderly, obese and young children are more susceptible. Cruz warns against leaving a child in the car during hot weather for any length of time. As short as 10 minutes can be fatal, she says.
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Lifetime Health Medical Group offers primary care at four health centers throughout the Rochester area. Same day urgent care for injuries and illnesses is also available to children and adults at three locations. Individuals can call 585-338-1200 to make a same day appointment or to hear walk-in hours. For more information, visit www.lifetimehealth.org.
Lifetime Health Medical Group provides primary health care for nearly 100,000 patients in Buffalo and Rochester. In Buffalo, Lifetime Health Medical Group operates four sites including: Amherst Health Center (1185 Sweet Home Road), Hamburg Health Center (151 Elmview Avenue), William E. Mosher Health Center (899 Main Street), and West Seneca Health Center (120 Gardenville Parkway West). A variety of services are offered at each health center and most include pharmacy, laboratory, radiology, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, family practice and specialty care. Lifetime Health Medical Group also offers a dental center, mammography, colonoscopy, endoscopy, behavioral health and urgent care.