Health Department warns citizens of heat-related illnesses

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As the hot summer days continue, the State Department of Health reminds citizens to make sure they stay hydrated.

The hottest days of the summer have arrived, and citizens need to be preparing for the heat.

With the outside temperatures typically approaching triple digits during July, Oklahoma State Department of Health officials are spreading the word about the dangers of heat-related illnesses.

Oklahoma reported 145 deaths associated with exposure to excessive heat from 2010 to 2017, according to a press release from the state Health Department. Avy Redus, project coordinator for the injury prevention service division, said the highest number of heat-related deaths happened in the month of July.

As temperatures continue to increase, it's important for citizens to know the risks of heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses.

"Everyone needs to be aware of what symptoms they might be having, especially if they have been working and doing things outside," said Jamie Dukes, public information officer for the Health Department. "Heat exhaustion and heatstrokes become more common at this time of year."

The most common heat-related illnesses are typically heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstrokes. Most of these illnesses have similar symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and headaches.

If someone is suffering from heatstroke, they will typically exhibit other symptoms such as rapid and strong pulse, confusion, moist skin and even unconsciousness. If not properly treated, heatstroke can lead to severe organ damage and even death.

"Heatstroke is more common for people who are working outside a lot, like construction jobs and yard work," Dukes said. "It's important for people to know that it's OK to take breaks and cool off and rehydrate."

Angels Care Home Health, located in Oklahoma City, is currently involved with its

"Dehydration Campaign." The Medicare-certified agency began the campaign in 2012 with the goal of educating citizens on the dangers and prevention methods.

"We noticed that summertime increases dehydration incidents, doctor and hospital visits, and even life-threatening cases," Nathan Stewart said, administrator for Angels Care. "We wanted to start a campaign not just focusing on helping citizens, but also educating people on how to take care of their loved ones at home."

Stewart, along with the Health Department, warns that children and citizens over 65 are more at risk for heat-related illnesses.

"We want to make sure they are drinking water and eating foods high in water content," Stewart said. "It's harder for older citizens to retain water, and they are often unaware of when they initially develop symptoms of dehydration."

Along with hydration, state officials advise citizens to dress in light clothing and stay indoors whenever possible. Citizens should also avoid drinking heavy amounts of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, particularly during the hot points of the day.

Dr.Patrick Cody, emergency medicine physicianfor Norman Regional Health Systems, noted that citizens should also be aware of the medications they are taking during the summer months.

"Certain medicines can make people more susceptible to heat injuries, Cody said. "Water pills such as Lasix can potentiate dehydration while other common medicines such asDetrol can increase the risk of heatstroke. This list is in no way all-inclusive, so be sure you know the side effect profile of any medicine you take in order to prevent a heat-related emergency."

For more information on heat-related illnesses and prevention methods, visit www.ok.gov/health.