Heat waves are health threats

Heat waves are health threats

© iStockphoto.com / Lisa F. Young © iStockphoto.com / Lisa F. Young

(HealthDay News) -- Heat waves are more than uncomfortable, they can be deadly.

That's especially true in large cities. And, seniors, children and people with chronic health problems are at higher risk for heat-related illness and death, according to Dr. Robert Glatter. He's an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"Those who have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, as well as those who suffer with mental illness, may be at risk for heat-related emergencies, including heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting), heat exhaustion, as well as heat stroke," he said in a hospital news release.

"Various classes of medications including beta blockers, as well as diuretics, can impair sweating -- ultimately disrupting the body's ability to cool itself. Other medications including antihistamines, as well as antidepressants and sedatives, may also impair your ability to sweat, leading to heat-related illnesses," Glatter said.

But young, healthy people also need to heed hot and humid weather, he added.

To beat the heat, drink water when you feel thirsty, but don't drink more than necessary. If you're physically active outdoors in the heat for more than an hour, it's a good idea to consume sports drinks, Glatter said.

And watch for signs of heat-related illness, he added.

"A high pulse rate, headache, dizziness, nausea, as well as shallow breathing, may be the initial signs of dehydration that may precede heat-related illness," Glatter said.

An air-conditioned location is the best place to be on hot and humid days. If you don't have air conditioning at home, use a fan and a spray bottle with cool water to prevent your body from overheating, he suggested.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about extreme heat and health.

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