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How to Keep Your Cool as Summer Heats Up

Dr. Tim Hendrix, medical director for AdventHealth Centra Care, offers tips on preventing heat-related illnesses.

The heat is on. Tim Hendrix, MD, medical director for AdventHealth Centra Care, knows well what that can mean for people not used to it. To illustrate, he shares the story of his introduction to the Florida heat when he moved to the Sunshine State from California 25 years ago.

As he had been used to doing, he grabbed a couple of bottles of water to take with him on a backroads bike ride at Canaveral National Seashore. On his California treks, Dr. Hendrix says, “When one bottle was gone, I knew to turn around and start back. That didn’t work in Florida. I wasn’t used to the humidity.” A couple of “chugs” of soda from a family leaving the beach “kept me out of trouble.”

Dr. Tim Hendrix
Dr. Tim Hendrix is the medical director for AdventHealth Centra Care.

Though he wouldn’t necessarily recommend soda as a first choice for hydration, Dr. Hendrix says that, with the exception of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, which will cause additional fluid loss, you should “drink what you’ve got.” And the colder the better when it comes to helping cool down.

It is not surprising that, as much of the country has experienced life under a heat dome during June, heat-exposure-related cases have doubled at Centra Care’s urgent care clinics. But, Dr. Hendrix notes, that is typical of Florida in June, “regardless of whether temperatures are more extreme than usual” and lacking the summer rainstorms that begin in July.

However, for those unaccustomed to the heat, a familiarization with heat illnesses and the spectrum of symptoms that may occur as your body temperature rises may be in order. While those who work outside may be better acclimated, Dr. Hendrix cautions, “Those people who work in the heat are still at high risk for heat-related illness if they’re not careful.”

"Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Stay ahead of it."

Signs that you may be suffering a heat-related illness include nausea, shakiness, light-headedness and excessive sweating in the case of heat exhaustion. If you have entered the danger zone of heat stroke, you may experience hot, dry skin and confusion, even delirium, brought on by significantly elevated body temperature and heat’s effect on the brain.

“All symptoms of early heat illness can generally be treated at home by drinking fluids, getting indoors, cooling off, taking off layers of clothes, and just taking it easy,” Dr. Hendrix says. Because it can sometimes be difficult to know that you’ve gotten to the point of heat stroke, Dr. Hendrix advises, “If there’s any question, don’t hesitate to call 911 and go to the ER. Don’t mess around.”

Dr. Hendrix offers these suggestions for coping with the summertime heat:

  • Avoid the heat of the day by planning any outside activities around mornings and evenings when it is cooler.
  • Drink plenty of liquids. "Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Stay ahead of it."
  • Pace yourself.
  • Find shade to work under if you have to be outside.
  • Stay as cool as possible.
  • If you start to feel any of the symptoms of heat-related illness, “go inside, get in AC, spray yourself with a hose, do what you need to do to start getting your body temperature down.”

Most of all, Dr. Hendrix says, “Check on your elderly neighbors and relatives during a heat wave. They’re the ones most at risk of being hospitalized because they’re on medications, they’re older, nobody’s watching out for them, and they might not be aware their temperature is going up because the air conditioning died in their house.”

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