UNC Health Talk

Fun in the Sun

Post by David Tsai, M.D. of Rex Primary Care of Holly Springs. Dr. Tsai is the medical director at Rex Primary Care of Holly Springs. He is a board certified family physician with a focus on primary care and sports medicine. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Tsai, please call (919) 552-8911.

Following my last blog post on encouraging everyone to exercise, we need to be smart and safe exercising in the heat. Every summer we hear about heat related illness. It kills an average of 318 Americans every year and puts hundreds more in the hospital. The good news is it’s one of the most preventable injuries.

Heat illness can be as mild as heat cramps but can progress to heat exhaustion and later to heat stroke.

Heat illness can be as mild as heat cramps but can progress to heat exhaustion and later to heat stroke. Symptoms occur when the body is unable to deal with high temperatures and is unable to cool itself.

Early signs of dehydration include dry lips and tongue, weakness, dizziness, exhaustion, nausea, headache, dark colored urine and muscle cramping. A quick clue that things have worsened to heat stroke is a change in mental status – personality change, confusion, disorientation, and going unconscious. Seek immediate medical attention. If it isn’t treated quickly, heat stroke can lead to death or permanent disability.

Woman drinking water on a sunny day
Stay Hydrated!

Fluid recommendations (from the AMAA) include the following:

  1. Cooled fluids aid in preventing heat illness by increasing palatability and lowering body temperature.
  2. Drink BEFORE you get thirsty. By the time you’re thirsty you are already dehydrated.  Kids are especially at risk, because they often don’t hydrate until they are thirsty.
  3. Before Activity: Adults should drink little over 16 oz of fluid. Kids should drink 4-8 oz of fluid (one adult size gulp = 1oz fluid; and one kid size gulp = ½ oz of fluid).
  4. During Activity: Adults should drink 8 oz every 15 min. Kids should drink 8 oz every 20 min.
  5. After Activity: Adults should drink 24 oz within the 1st 2 hrs after activity; Kids should drink about 12 oz for every ½ pound of weight loss.

Beverages with flavor and electrolytes provide one of the best choices for hydration. Water is still a good choice, but too much free water can lead to low sodium related complications.

Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages because those fluids stimulate urine production and can promote dehydration.  Avoid beverages with high sugar loads, such as fruit juice or soda that actually have slower fluid absorption.

NOTE: People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; or are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.

Other tips to avoid heat illness outdoors include wearing light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and taking breaks in the shade whenever possible. If you can’t exercise during the coolest time of day outdoors at 4-7am, at least avoid the time of day with the most intense sun exposure between 10am-4pm; or find an alternative exercise activity indoors.

Remember, heat related illness is completely preventable. May you all have a fun and safe summer in the sun.

If you have a health topic or concern that you would like discussed in my monthly column, please email me at rexprimarycareofhollysprings@rexhealth.com.