Published on June 17, 2022

Overheating A Danger During Summer

By Joseph Russell, Messenger-Inquirer

As temperatures continue to rise and the heat index regularly hovers around triple digits, health officials are urging caution for anyone spending time outside. That includes athletes, as well as the spectators who might be watching them.

According to Jason Anderson, health and fitness manager at the Owensboro Health Healthpark, some of the slightest wardrobe adjustments could prove to be the most beneficial. “If people are going out — maybe they’re not even particularly exercising but just want to go watch a ballgame or something like that — your clothing options are important,” Anderson said. “You want to wear light-type fabrics, and even try to stay away from cotton fabrics if you can. “When cotton gets wet, it just holds the sweat and sticks to you. It makes your body harder to cool off because you can’t get that wet, damp cloth off of it.” Even something as simple as wearing a hat could make a big difference, Anderson added.
“People say, ‘Well, make sure you wear a hat in the winter because it keeps the heat there on your head,’ ” he said. “So, sometimes people don’t want to wear a hat in the summer, thinking that they don’t want to be hot. As long as it’s some kind of ventilated hat or something with a broad brim, it’ll help.” Another thing to keep in mind, he noted, is that as people get older, they face increased risks of skin cancer on their ears or neck because baseball caps only protected the front of their heads when they were younger.

There are other precautions to take, as well. If you’re exercising outside, Anderson suggests limiting the intensity of your activities, going out
more in the evening or mornings when the heat isn’t as severe and sticking to shady spots when possible. And, of course, staying hydrated.
“Drink lots of water, because you’re going to sweat it off if you’re outside,” he said. “It’s also not a bad idea to not just replace what you’re losing with water but have an electrolyte replacement like a Gatorade or Powerade since you’re also losing potassium when you sweat. “A pretty good rule of thumb is to drink about one ounce of water for every two pounds of body
weight. For example, if you have a 160-pound person, they need to drink about 80 ounces of water a day. Some people try to use thirst as an indicator, but if you get to a point where you’re thirsty, you’re probably already dehydrated a little bit.”

It’s all part of an effort to avoid heat exhaustion or overheating. “The danger about overheating is once you are at that point where you have overheated, there’s no recovery from that,” he said. “You’ve already kind of crossed that line. “If you’re outside and sweating, sweating, sweating and then all of a sudden you’re not sweating anymore, that’s not a good sign. Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself off. If that happens — you start getting lightheaded, extremely fatigued, you’re not sweating — the best thing to do is quickly try to get out of the heat and get to a shaded area where you can cool your body down
and take it easy.”

According to Owensboro Health officials, the emergency department has diagnosed about a dozen people with heat exhaustion or heat exposure since Monday. They’ve also had about a dozen others that had the symptoms and contributing factors of heat exhaustion without the official diagnosis. There’s also been an “extreme uptick” in respiratory issues such as asthma and COPD exacerbation due to high temperatures and poor air quality.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 702 heat-related deaths — 415 with heat as the underlying cause and 287 with heat as a contributing cause — annually in the United States from 2004-2018. Taking a mindful approach to spending time outdoors, Anderson said, could make a massive difference. “The elderly and the young will overheat a lot quicker, so really keep an eye on them,” he said. “If you can take your exercise program inside when it’s really hot, that’s always a good choice. “It just all goes back to really being mindful and exercising caution.”

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital; Owensboro Health Twin Lakes Medical Center; the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 200 providers at more than 20 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have 16,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 24,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 200 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 70,000 Emergency Department visits, more than a million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.