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16 August 2005

Stay Prepared - High Temps
Still a Possibility

JSU's Jim Decker works in hot weather but says he knows how to avoid heat exhaustion. (Photo by Randy Wilson)

By Randy Wilson
JSU News Bureau

Although fall's cooler temps are just around the corner, significant heat indexes remain a possibility. This means you need to watch for signs of heat exhaustion, especially if you are active, exercise a lot, or work during extremely hot weather.

One of the most common problems people can have in hot weather is heat cramps. Heat cramps are muscle contractions, usually in the gastrocnemius or hamstring muscles (the muscles at the back of the calves).

These contractions are forceful and painful. The cramps seem to be connected to heat, dehydration, and poor conditioning, rather than to lack of salt or fluids. However, with proper care it is possible to prevent them.

"Heat Cramps usually improve with rest, drinking fluids, and relocation to a cool environment," said Nancy Edge-Schmitz, RN, of JSU's Student Health Center.

Another potential problem is heat exhaustion, which can happen with excessive heat and dehydration. The signs of heat exhaustion include paleness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fainting, and a moderately increased temperature (101-102 degrees F).

"Rest and fluids may help in mild heat exhaustion, and ice packs and a cool environment may also help," said Edge-Schmitz. "More severely exhausted patients may need IV fluids, especially if vomiting keeps them from drinking enough."

Another problem with high temperatures is heat stroke, which is the most severe form of heat illness. It can occur even in people who are not exercising, if the weather is hot enough.

Symptoms of heat stroke are warm, flushed skin, with no sweat. A person with heat stroke usually has a very high temperature and may be delirious, unconscious, or having seizures.

If you should experience these symptoms, get medical help immediately.

"These patients need to have their temperature reduced quickly, often with ice packs, and must also be given IV fluids for rehydration," said Edge-Schmitz. "They must be taken to the hospital as quickly as possible and may have to stay there for observation since many different body organs can fail in heat stroke."

The best advice for avoiding any one of these problems is to not overdo it. If you feel yourself getting too hot, seek shade or another cool spot to rest.

For further information, see Dr. Vinay Reddy's website at

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