ECSO, GRMC offer summer safety tips

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Summertime is one of the busiest times for the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office and the local hospitals.

“With more people outdoors and participating in activities, it is important that we take precautions to ensure the safety of our community,” the sheriff’s office said in a press statement. “We want to remind everyone to prioritize safety and responsibility during this season of relaxation and fun. Whether you are hiking, swimming, enjoying a neighborhood barbeque or just spending time with family and friends, please be mindful of your surroundings and take steps to avoid accidents or injury.”

One of the biggest risks to health during this time of year is the increased risk of heat-related illnesses.

Summer is predicted to bring on the heat that can put extra stress on one’s heart. According to the National Institute of Health, for every degree body temperature rises, the heart beats approximately 10 beats per minute faster, which is why in hot temperatures it becomes harder for the body to cool off, especially for persons with chronic health conditions like heart disease, hypertension or atrial fibrillation.

“Our bodies get rid of excess heat through sweat,” said Peter Scalise, III , M.D., a Gadsden Regional Medical Center affiliated cardiologist. “Hot and humid weather forces the heart to work harder to pump more blood to the skin. While it’s important to stay active during summer months, I’ve seen that my patients are more prone to experience dehydration if they are not careful to drink plenty of fluids such as water or sports drinks.”

Another factor affecting heart patients is the fact that certain medications interfere with the body’s response to heat regulation.

“Beta blockers can blunt the needed increase in circulation to get rid of excess heat, increasing the likelihood of heat exhaustion,” said Dr. Scalise. “Diuretics can also make you more likely to develop dehydration.”

Dr. Scalise emphasizes the importance of continuing to take medication as prescribed and suggests working with cardiologists to come up with a heart health plan before the weather changes, including water intake, diet, fitness routine and attire. Too little water consumption can lead to dehydration, and too much can throw off electrolytes. Minerals such as sodium, potassium and magnesium are depleted while sweating. It’s important to replenish electrolytes through proper supplementation and nutrition. Avoid working out during peak heat hours or stay indoors or in the shade throughout the day. Wear lightweight dry-fit clothing that allows air to circulate to keep skin cooler.

Warning signs that one’s body is not keeping up with the heat include  body temperature above 103°F; red, hot and dry skin; inability to sweat; rapid pulse; headache; dizziness or fatigue; nausea or vomiting; disorientation and passing out.

Anyone exhibiting more than one of these symptoms may be experiencing heat stroke and should call 911 immediately. While waiting for medical attention, do not consume fluids and continue efforts to get the body temperature to fall below 102°F, such as moving into the shade, taking a cool (not cold) bath or shower, spraying off with a hose or fanning to move air.

Gadsden Regional Medical Center offers a free downloadable heart risk assessment online.

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