Michelle Rupp: Joining me now is Dr. Chad Rodgers from here at AFMC. We are talking about heat related illnesses. Dr Chad, Thanks for coming in today.
Chad Rodgers, MD: Thanks for having me.
MR: It’s little on the warm side out.
CR: It’s been a bit hot. A scorcher, as they say.
MR: That’s right. So, it’s important that we talk about heat related illnesses and really it doesn’t matter if you are outside exercising or if you’re outside pulling weeds, you got to know some of those signs and symptoms when it comes to heat stroke. Heat exhaustion and when you’ve got to seek help. So maybe let’s first just kind of level set and talk about heat stroke. What is that? What does that mean? Are you actually having a stroke?
CR: Well, you’re having something very similar to a stroke and like the traditional sense of a stroke. So, you’re having some, you know, things that are happening to your brain, which is what people commonly think of stroke. You’re not having a bleed but you’re not, your brain is not functioning like it normally is because it’s overheated, and it doesn’t have enough fluids to kind of keep it running almost like you would be fluid in your car to kind of keep it cool to keep it running. So, it’s kind of gone into overdrive. It’s beginning to lose its natural mechanisms that it uses to cool the body to keep the brain cool. The brain is actually pretty selfish in that regards because in order to function well, it has to be a certain temperature and that’s why you see, you know, people when they get really high temperatures, they kind of get disoriented, sometimes, sometimes they’re confused because the brain is not functioning well. So, a similar kind of event happens when you have heatstroke and it’s probably the most severe of the heat related illnesses. What about heat exhaustion? What is that? Yeah, so heat exhaustion is sort of sometimes one of the steps towards having heat stroke. So, it’s sort of probably the earliest symptom is just dehydration and where people sometimes have thirst, but by then you’re kind of a little too late in the game when you’re already thirsty. So, your body has all these natural mechanisms to cool and so they’re kind of getting worn out there, kind of getting exhausted. And so, the one that we most commonly talk about is sweating, so sweat kind of, you produce sweat or to cool the body through evaporation. So, your body has been either doing this over a very intense amount of time when it’s been very hot or it could be cumulative. So, if you’re working several days in the heat, so you’re working four or five days or if you’re out playing golf four or five days in a row or if you’re working in a really warm factory that doesn’t have good air conditioning, you may have a cumulative loss of water that you’re not replacing and so your body begins to tell you I’m not functioning well. So, your belly starts to cramp. People often complain about headache, which again is your brain telling you that I’m not functioning well and sometimes people will complain about muscle eggs, especially in the legs and the arms.
MR: And so, when we start exhibiting some of those symptoms, what’s the first thing we need to do?
CR: Yeah, the first thing is try to get cool, or if you come across somebody who, because sometimes people don’t realize because the brain is not functioning well, that they are having some heat exhaustion or they may be headed towards the heat stroke. So, if you recognize someone like the tennis player did the other day and you know that you see that they’re not there, they’re kind of acting confused or you’re having trouble just thinking or you get that headache or your belly, you’re starting to feel nauseous. You need to move to the shade; you need to try to get cool. That’s the number one thing. The second thing, a lot of times people try to drink cold water, thinking that that will kind of help cold enough faster. It’s actually better to kind of drink room temperature water. But water water water is one of the most important interventions when you begin to move towards heat exhaustion. If you can get into an air-conditioned area, that’s good. If you come across somebody who needs help, you can take cool washcloths and put that on their head and on their body, that helps evaporate the heat, you lose most of your heat from your head. So often putting, you know, washcloths to the forehead and on top of the head, just to help people cool down. If they’re more ill than that and they’re really having a lot of people, they’re moving into that heat stroke face and that’s really a point where you need to activate this or that 911 either get them to the hospital or get emergency services there to help get that person taken care of so that they can be cooled down properly.
MR: You know, I’m reminded of hearing of stories of student athletes when two days start in August even young men who are working, even some of the fields here in the state of Arkansas and just being out in that relentless pounding sun. And then, you know, a couple hours later, something catastrophic happens. And does this happen all of a sudden or is it, can it be a delayed effect? Like you’ve already come inside but you’re not necessarily out of the woods yet?
CR: Right. So, it can be sort of a gradual thing. And sometimes you kind of come in at the end of the day after you’ve been out doing a lot of gardening, or you’ve been out at work. So the big thing in Arkansas, particularly when it’s super hot is also that it’s very humid. So, you haven’t been sweating, like you normally would, so that’s really the humidity that gets us. So, it may not be until you get later in at the end of the day that you notice I kind of have a little bit of a headache or I’m not hungry sometimes, that’s an early sign that maybe you’re not refusing your gut well because you are dehydrated. And so then you kind of get that nausea vomiting so you can see you sent them several hours later. I think Children are really at high risk because they can’t tell you, you know, they’re not always drinking water like you and I are consciously, they’re just kind of playing and you also have to think about older adults because of medications or just because of natural aging, you lose some of your ability to lose heat. So those are kind of your high-risk groups.
MR: Once, once you go through a situation like this, once you have survived heat exhaustion, survived heatstroke, do you become more sensitive than moving forward?
CR: Yeah, we just in general kind of get more sensitive as we get older, but if you have had some heat exhaustion or heat stroke and you’re probably a little bit more predisposition to meaning that you’re more likely to get these symptoms. You’re not as heat tolerant. Say you live in a cooler part of the country, and you move to a warmer part of the country, your body has to kind of acclimate. It has to kind of get familiar with that every time. So, people will be much more sensitive to the heat going forward.
MR: One of my last questions. Anything to it, if you are out exercising and you’re sweating and then all of a sudden you get goose bumps. What is that about?
CR: Right. So again, your body is trying to activate some kind of chilling mechanisms, right? So, people kind of sort of kind of an odd symptom that people will actually experience chills or feel something of their spine. That’s actually your body telling you that you are overheated, you’re not doing your normal mechanisms. So you may in you know the white house when you’re in the heat you sweat. But then if you have stop sweating then that is a serious sign that you’re kind of headed down the right path. So, the main thing is you know just try to stay hydrated, drink your water. I always say water, water, water you know and not and try to you know as coca cola is not water, you know and replacement drinks are good after you’ve been exercising the water is the best thing you can do.
MR: Maybe just some water and even some salt.
CR: Yeah, well actually they you know talk to your doctor about salt. Salt sometimes can be depending on if you have some other issues like high blood pressure and stuff like that can kind of complicate things. So always kind of run that by your doctor. But a lot of times you see if you’ve had a heavy episode of sweating. So, you’ve been playing sports, so you’ve been out running.
MR: And you get little salt marks?
CR: Yea, a lot of those sports drinks are going to have electrolytes like sodium in them to help replace. There are probably a little bit safer. But then after you finish that drink that that sports drink. Water, water, water. That’s really so important.
MR: Because you do have to watch the sugar content and some of those sports drinks. They can be loaded with sugar.
CR: And that can actually end up dehydrating in and also can make your cramping a lot worse.
MR: Okay. Alright, so maybe this summer we need to just stay inside a little bit until it’s cool and then when it’s cool out, then step outside, you know early in the morning, late at night.
CR: Just take it easy.
MR: All right Dr. Chad. Thank you so much for coming in. And thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll see you back here next week for more AFMC TV.