Doctor: Don’t neglect medical care for heat-related ailments


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As dangerous summer heat continues to impact Southern New England, a local doctor is urging the public not to hesitate in seeking medical attention if a heat-related illness arises.

Dr. Tracy Madsen, an emergency physician at Lifespan, said some people may avoid visiting hospitals and other medical centers due to the pandemic.

“Please come to the emergency department if you need help,” Madsen said. “We’re here 24 hours a day and it’s safe to come to the hospital at this point.”

Madsen also said it’s critical not to hesitate to call 911 in the event of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

For mild cases, finding a cool area and drinking water can help relieve symptoms, along with placing a cool, wet towel over one’s head or neck.

The most extreme cases of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are typically found in children and the elderly because of the process our bodies go through to cool down. According to Madsen, people in those groups don’t sweat nearly as much as adults do, which can lead to overheating.

Madsen also recommended limiting strenuous activity and time outdoors, spending time in cool, shaded areas, and regularly checking on family members, friends and neighbors.

Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness

Heat Cramps

  • The mildest form of heat-related illness
  • Muscle pains and spasms caused by heavy exertion
  • Usually the first sign your body is having trouble keeping cool

Heat Exhaustion 

  • Occurs when body is dehydrated from lots of sweating
  • Symptoms include:
    • Heavy sweating (even though skin may be cool, pale or flushed)
    • Weak pulse
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Exhaustion
    • Headache
  • Treatment:
    • Lie down in a cool place
    • Loosen or remove clothing
    • Put cool, wet clothes on body
    • Go into air-conditioning if possible
    • Take slow sips of cool water (half a glass every 15 minutes)
    • If vomiting, get medical help

Heat Stroke

  • A life-threatening medical emergency
  • Body can no longer stay cool
  • Can cause brain damage or death
  • Symptoms include:
    • Temperature of 105 or higher
    • Hot, red, dry skin
    • Rapid, weak pulse
    • Shallow breathing
    • No sweating
    • Potential unconsciousness
  • Treatment
    • Call 911
    • Move person to cooler place
    • Remove person’s clothing
    • Use cool (not cold) bath or wet cloth to lower body temperature
    • Use fan or air conditioner to help lower body temperature

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