By CLINT FOSTER
Texas heat is a well-documented reality. As relatively mild as this summer has been, August is just around the corner and with it comes the risk of heat-related injury.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has designated today as National Heatstroke Prevention Day to raise awareness for the signs and symptoms of heatstroke. As of July 28, an estimated 24 children have died nationally of heat-related illness, with three of those deaths in the Lone Star State.
Emergency and Trauma Director James Fesser said Palo Pinto General Hospital treated 51 patients for heat-related illness last year.
He said it is important that people know the signs of heat stroke heading into what is known as Texas’ hottest month.
“Typically, August is our heaviest month,” Fesser said, whose facility treated a high of 16 cases of heat-illness last August. “We usually have about three deaths per year that are attributed directly to heat. The danger is when people continue to work, do yard work or even football practice – like two-a-days – when they’re feeling somewhat nauseated or light-headed. Those kinds of things are early warning signs of heat exhaustion.”
Fesser said the symptoms of heat exhaustion, which precedes heat stroke, include a tingly, clammy feeling, nausea, light-headedness or shortness of breath. When heat stroke sets in, body temperatures can rise to 106 degrees in 10 to 15 minutes and sweating often stops as the body’s methods of self cooling have failed.
One group that needs to be particularly mindful of these signs as the calendar turns to August are football players and coaches whose two-a-day practices will soon be in full swing. Fesser said it is important to not let peer pressure or pride dictate whether or not someone admits they are not feeling well.
“Of particular concern are the high school kids that often start two-a-days in August,” Fesser said. “There’s sometimes some social pressure to not admit that you may be feeling poorly or that you’re not able to endure whatever activity that everyone else is performing. It’s important to not let pride cause you to make a bad decision. Taking time to cool off, and certainly trying to avoid the hottest hours of the day, between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., we have to be mindful of those kinds of things.”
Fesser added that people with underlying health problems such as asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease should be particularly cautious in the heat. He said to always remember to rehydrate with plenty of water and electrolytes.
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