June 25, 2008

Heat Ills Rise With Temperature

By Marjorie Riddle, The State, Columbia, S.C.

Jun. 25--Most Midlands-area hospitals are seeing the usual number of heat-related illnesses for the beginning of summer, but one saw an alarmingly high number earlier this month.

The Kershaw County Medical Center treated nine people for heat-related illnesses between June 10 and 16.

Even more patients were affected when the heat aggravated their pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, said Ed Adams, emergency services director at the medical center.

People keep cool in hot weather by perspiring, which lets heat escape through the skin, medical center officials say. But if the body does not cool properly, a person can develop heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat-related illnesses can become serious -- or even deadly -- if left untreated.

Among recent heat-related illnesses at other area hospitals:

Lexington Medical Center had 21 cases from June 1 through Monday, spokeswoman Margaret Gregory said.

Palmetto Health Richland and Palmetto Health Baptist have had a few cases for the month and had none the week of June 16, likely because of cooler temperatures, spokeswoman Tammie Epps said.

The downtown branch of Providence Hospital saw seven cases from June 1 through June 23, spokeswoman Megan Wright said.

To avoid heat-related illnesses, staff members at Kershaw County Medical Center recommend:

Drinking plenty of water and eating well-balanced, light meals

Avoiding strenuous activity or waiting until the coolest part of the day

Staying indoors as much as possible. If you don't have air conditioning, stay on the lowest floor, out of the sun.

Avoiding alcohol and caffeine, as both further dehydration

Wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible

Staying out of the sun and avoid extreme temperature changes

Stopping the activity of someone who is showing signs of heat-related illnesses, finding them a cool place and having them drink plenty of fluids

Reach Riddle at (803) 771-8435.

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