BATON ROUGE, LA — It’s beginning to feel a lot like summer. In south Louisiana, that feeling can often become a hazard to your health.
With the annual Bayou Country Superfest and Memorial Day weekend approaching, it’s important to remember to stay safe while having fun outdoors.
“When [heat exhaustion] starts you get hot, weak, faint, become nauseous with possible vomiting,” Mike Chutz, BR EMS, said. “Later on you’ll get cramps, mostly in the legs and abdomen. If that goes untreated and the person does not cool off, it can lead to heat stroke, which is the most severe case and is considered an extreme emergency condition.”
Emergency responders have already started to get calls about possible heat exhaustion, and the temperatures are only expected to rise by the weekend.
“Thankfully, most will take a break and go inside when they experience the early signs of heat exhaustion,” Chutz noted.
A major indicator that you are at the end stage of heat exhaustion and moving to a possible heat stroke is when you stop sweating. That is the body’s way of regulating temperature, so without sweat, your condition can quickly worsen.
“A mistake most people will make is to wet their shirt with water,” Chutz noted. “The wet shirt actually seals the heat in and it makes you hotter and causes your body temperature to go up. Your body cools itself by evaporating sweat, and you can’t evaporate sweat if you’re wearing a wet shirt.”
What you should do if you feel symptoms is to immediately remove yourself from direct sunlight. The best thing to do is get to a shaded area, preferably indoors, with a fan or air conditioning. Then, hydration with water or a sports drink should be your focus.
“If you know you’re going to be outdoors for a long period of time, you will want to drink plenty of water the night before and throughout the day. Also, you will want to limit your caffeine and alcohol intake. You want to wear light colored, loose fitting clothes and a cap that is designed to let off heat. Your body releases a lot of heat from the head. If you’re wearing a confined hat, it can make your temperature rise. Tennis hats are a great example of the right type of hat to wear. It’s specifically designed to release heat.”
With the temperatures this high, it doesn’t take long for your body to suffer, especially for children and the elderly. That’s why EMS reiterates the dangers of leaving a child in a hot car.
“A vehicle parked in the sun can get up to 130 degrees on a day like today,” Chutz concluded. “If you have a child in that car, it only takes minutes for them to suffer a heat stroke. That’s because their body cannot regulate heat as well as an adult.
“Never leave your kid in a hot car for any period of time.”