University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health and Wellness

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Beat the Summer Heat

Lori M. Noble, MD, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine, located at the new Penn Medicine Washington Square offers tips on how to stay safe in the summer heat.

Beat the Summer Heat
Lori M. Noble, MD
Summer is a time for family fun in the sun, lazy days by the pool or ocean and countless outdoor activities.

As the summer heat beats down, though, it can sometimes seem like it’s impossible to stay cool. Not only can it be uncomfortable, but in some cases, it can actually be serious or even life-threatening. It is important to be able to recognize the signs of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and to know how to treat and prevent them.

Heat exhaustion is due to either not having enough water or salt in the body, both of which come from a combination of excess sweating and lack of hydration. Common symptoms that you should be on the lookout for include:
  • Pale skin or cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Heavy sweating
  • Dark-colored urine, (a sign of dehydration)
  • Rapid heartbeat
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, the most important step is to get out of the heat as quickly as possible. Preferably, get to an air-conditioned space or at least out of the sun. Then, drink water, remove tight clothing and take a cool bath or shower. If the symptoms continue for more than 30 minutes despite these treatments, call your doctor. If untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to a more dangerous heat-related illness, called heat stroke.

The common symptoms of heat stroke are:
  • Body temperature over 105° F
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat (which may be either strong or weak)
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes (such as confusion, disorientation or staggering)
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
If you see someone demonstrating these symptoms, immediately call 911. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, some simple first aid should be administered, which can be life-saving: fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or hose, apply ice packs to the patient's armpits, groin, neck and back to help reduce body temperature, and if the patient is conscious, help them get into to a shower or tub of cool water, or an ice bath.

Preventing heat-related illness is just as important as being able to recognize and treat the common symptoms. Children under age four and adults over 65 or with chronic medical illnesses (like heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, and diabetes) are at increased risk for both heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so be sure to check in on your loved ones during these hot summer months.

When the temperatures soar above 90 degrees, encourage people without air conditioning to go to a public place that does have air conditioning, like a shopping mall or senior center.

Finally, keep plenty of water on hand and always wear loose, breathable clothing.

Taking these simple steps can help insure that you and your loved ones have a healthy, happy summer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ticked About Lyme Disease?

Awareness and Prevention are Key.

The weather is warmer, the days are longer and all you and your family want to do is spend time outside. It really doesn’t matter if it’s hiking, camping, or playing sports -- as long as you are outdoors-- you are happy. It is important to remember that higher temperatures and the more time you spend outside increases the risks of being bitten by a tick and contracting Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans from the bite of the deer tick. Most Lyme disease in the northeastern United States occurs during summer or fall, when the small nymphal ticks are most prevalent.

Lyme disease in the summer
The early stage of Lyme disease is usually marked by one or more of these signs and symptoms:
  • Tiredness
  • Chills and fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle and/or joint pain
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • A characteristic skin rash (erythema migrans)
When caught early, Lyme disease is highly treatable and curable with a single course of oral antibiotics. If the disease is left untreated, it can cause neurologic complications, including facial palsy, numbness, tingling and headaches, abnormal heart rhythm and large-joint arthritis.

Tips to avoid ticks

  • Wear light-colored clothing. You’ll have a better chance of spotting a dark tick crawling around.
  • Wear high socks, sneakers and long pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks, your shirt into your pants and avoid wearing open-toed shoes to minimize areas where ticks can find its way to your skin.
  • Use insect repellents. Apply repellent to any skin that is unprotected. You may need to apply every few hours. Make sure to avoid contact with your eyes!
  • Shower or bathe within two hours. If possible, always wash off within a couple hours after being outdoors to wash away loose ticks. Do a daily tick check. Search all the places ticks love to hide: your hair, under your arms, between your legs, behind your knees and in your belly button.
  • Don’t forget about the kids and pets. Be sure to check any children and pets before they enter the house. Ticks can easily drop off on carpets and furniture.
  • Check all gear. Thoroughly examine all items you brought with you on your trek.
  • Wash and dry your clothes. It is possible for ticks to survive the washing machine, even if hot water is used. Always dry your clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour as well.
  • Create a tick-free zone at home. Mow your lawn frequently, stack wood neatly and in a dry area and discourage animals by putting up fences. It is also good to keep playground equipment, decks, lawn chairs, etc. away from yard edges and trees.
Tick prevention tips
“While Lyme disease can seem frightening, it is preventable! If you are vigilant about looking for ticks, and can pull the tick off the skin within 48 hours of the exposure, you can't get Lyme disease from that tick. If you're not sure how long the tick was on your body before you were able to remove it, contact your doctor to discuss a one-time dose of an antibiotic to help prevent the symptoms of Lyme disease from developing,” says Lori M. Noble, MD, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine.

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