Summer brings the potential for dehydration and heat exhaustion, but diagnosing the issue can be difficult for emergency responders.
Symptoms sometimes appear to indicate other issues, Buchanan County EMT Andrew King said.
“It’s hard to tell if it’s a true heat-related emergency or something else going on,” he said. “So somebody may be presenting with stroke-like symptoms and it could be that they’re having a stroke or it could be that they’re having a heat-related emergency that is mimicking a stroke.
That also makes it tough to track statistics, King said.
“It’s hard for us to truly get down and track the data of who is specifically having a heat-related emergency or it’s just something else,” he said. “They (also) go hand-in-hand oftentimes, so somebody who’s out exercising in the sun, maybe they have a heart history or they have a heart problem.”
Anyone can suffer from a heat-related emergency, but some people are more susceptible than others, King said.
“There’s also a lot of medications that can make you susceptible to the heat,” he said. “So it’s very important to, you know, on days when there’s a lot of sun, a lot of heat, very high humidity where you may not be able to cool your body naturally, you need to be taking lots of water breaks.”
Heart medications and antibiotics can decrease a person’s ability to handle the heat, King said.
It’s also important to drink water or something that can replace the body’s nutrients, he said.
“Things like pop and caffeine can do more damage than good, so you want those waters,” he said. “You want those Gatorades, things that are going to replenish the salts and the nutrients that you sweat out.”
Caffeinated drinks like soda have ingredients that aren’t absorbed by the body but they still replace other fluids, King said. Drinking alcohol in hot weather can lead to some of the same issues.
People should drink a bottle of water for every beer they have, he said.