When Your Bathroom Habits Aren’t Routine (And What Can Help)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irregular bowel habits, alternating diarrhea and/or constipation, and cramping or bloating, in conjunction with abdominal discomfort or pain--they're the hallmark signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you are regularly finding yourself, and your bathroom, occupied with these life-altering symptoms, relief may be in sight. 

It’s a Common Disorder

IBS can make you feel isolated, but you are not alone. It is estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of the world’s population suffers from IBS. There is no known cure for the condition, but there are many effective treatment options available.

7 ways to improve your IBS

The following can help you to manage even your worst IBS symptoms:

1. Medications

No matter your IBS symptoms, anti-diarrheal, anti-spasmodic and laxative medications can get your toilet habits back on track. These are particularly effective with patients whose symptoms do not respond to simple lifestyle changes or for those who are having severe symptoms. Low-dose anti-anxiety medications have also shown to improve the effects of IBS in some people. Communicating openly with your physician is the key to finding the best treatment plan.

2. Probiotics

They've become quite popular as the importance of gut health has been a popular topic in the media, but put simply, new studies have shown promise that probiotics can help to regulate the gut’s healthy bacteria and regulate you as a result.

3. Fiber

Fiber is important in any healthy diet, but for those suffering with constipation, it is particularly vital. Gradually increasing your fiber intake to the recommended 25 to 30 grams per day can help you to increase your overall health and normalize your bathroom habits.

4. Dietary changes

Fiber is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables and good fats daily can help your stomach and improve your mindset. While not a cure-all, the low-FODMAP diet is also worth trying if you have gastrointestinal concerns. It is an elimination diet that removes FODMAP foods, or short-chain carbohydrates, from the menu.

5. Stress reduction

IBS is often exacerbated by stress, as the mind and gut have a strong connection. Finding ways to both manage and anticipate your stress can go a long way in symptom reduction. Everything from mindfulness to yoga can help. 

6. Exercise

In a 2011 study, IBS patients who exercised 20-30 minutes per day at least three days per week saw an improvement in their symptoms. Even simple changes to your routine, like adding a 30 minute walk after dinner, can reduce your stress, improve your health and potentially erase your symptoms.

7. Education

Many patients come to me concerned that their discomfort is a sign of something much more serious than IBS. I take IBS very seriously, and I work together with my patients to find relief for their symptoms. The palliative effect of knowing their suffering is not the result of a more dire diagnosis is an added bonus. If you’re concerned about any discomfort you are having, talk with your doctor—it could be a reprieve.

When your gut feeling shouldn't be ignored

It is important to know that IBS is defined as recurrent abdominal pain or discomfort that is associated with altered bowel habits, like diarrhea or constipation. These symptoms can typically happen on average at least one day per week for the past three months.  Symptoms such as an unexplained weight loss of more than 10 pounds, bloody stools or rectal bleeding, fevers or night sweats, or nighttime stooling are not typical of IBS and should prompt one to be evaluated by a gastroenterologist.

IBS is not an indicator of future disease

Having IBS does not increase your risk for colon cancer, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. In fact, in IBS the gastrointestinal system appears normal on an internal exam.  However, IBS is often seen in patients who have already been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), anxiety, depression or other conditions associated with visceral hypersensitivity (fibromyalgia).

On the horizon for IBS

While there is no current cure for IBS, there are new findings about its origins. Stay tuned and in touch with your doctor for ever-changing treatment options and, hopefully, one day a cure.

It’s Too Late to Get the Flu Shot (and Other Myths)


There are many misconceptions about the flu shot, but science and experience have proven that the influenza vaccine can reduce your risk of acquiring the flu; so you can rest assured that the flu shot is generally safe and effective. Let's tackle a few of the most common myths about this often polarizing vaccine.

A woman giving a flu shot

Myth #1: It's Too Late to Get the Vaccine

Physicians and researchers have designed the vaccine to be most effective when it is administered before the flu begins to spread, which is typically in late October.  However, it is better to get the vaccine any point during the season, rather than not at all, as it will still protect you if you are exposed to the flu.

Myth #2: It Will Make me Sick

It’s possible to get the flu shot, then get sick the next day; it's ironic, but the shot didn’t cause this. If this has happened to you, it is likely that you were exposed to a virus before ever receiving the shot, or you were exposed to a virus that the shot does not protect you against. The vaccine cannot make you sick or give you the flu, though side effects like soreness, redness or swelling at the injection shot, headache or low-grade fevers do occur. The vaccine’s effects have been studied time and time again, and there is no proven correlation between the flu shot and other disease or illness. 

Myth #3: It is Rarely Effective

Each year more than 226,000 Americans are hospitalized and about 36,000 die from influenza-related complications, according to the American Lung Association. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by 40 to 60 percent. It has also been shown to reduce the severity of illness and number of hospitalizations in those who still get sick. The influenza vaccine is designed to protect against the three or four flu strains that are most common in any given flu season. While nobody can predict fully which version of the virus you will be exposed to, the 2018-19 shot has been updated to better match the viruses that are actually circulating in the U.S. 

Myth #4: I’m Healthy, it Isn’t Necessary

Healthy or not, you are always at risk of contracting the virus. The flu can wreak havoc on your system and can also cause long-term correlative health effects. If you are in contact with children, the elderly or anyone who has an impaired immune system, you can help protect their health by getting the flu shot. In fact, every employee at our hospital is required to get the vaccine for this reason. 

If you have other questions about the flu shot, check with your physician for the facts.  From a clinical perspective, the benefit of getting the flu shot far outweighs the negatives. It isn't too late in the season; get yours today

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Right For You?

Weight loss, loose stools, infertility, joint pain, bloating, migraines—these are only some of the varied symptoms that can result from celiac disease. For those who suffer from this mysterious illness, a gluten-free diet can be life-changing, but there is little data to prove that the diet is beneficial for the general population.

Gluten Free pastries

I would describe a gluten-free diet for the general population as a “fad” diet. It’s certainly healthy to reduce your intake of carbohydrates and accordingly consume more fruits, vegetables and lean meats, but barring celiac disease it isn’t necessary to scrub all gluten from your diet. Many celiac patients stumble on a gluten-free diet in desperation after years of living with gastrointestinal discomfort; others try the diet at the behest of their physician after diagnosis. For those with the disease the diet isn’t a fad, it is life altering. In fact, nearly all patients go into celiac remission after following the diet for one year.

The problem is celiac disease is an uncommon disease with common symptoms, which explains why it is quite elusive to many health care providers. In my opinion, increased awareness, screening and testing accounts for the rising number of people diagnosed with the disease.

If you have any of the following symptoms, or you have been suffering with unexplained gastrointestinal concerns, I recommend that you speak with your provider about testing options.

Typical Symptoms

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal distention
  • Bloating sensation
  • Joint pains
  • Skin rash

Lesser Known Symptoms

  • Bone fractures
  • Pallor
  • Recurrent migraine headaches
  • Infertility
  • Frequent miscarriages
  • Low birth weight in children

Unique Symptoms Seen in my Office Practice

  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Weak and thin bones
  • Herpetic skin rash

Celiac disease is frequently associated with a variety of autoimmune or connective tissue disorders such as diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and dermatitis herpetiformis. If you also suffer from any of these diseases, it might be worth getting tested for Celiac’s.

If you plan to go gluten free, regardless of your disease status, be sure to speak to a physician or registered dietitian to come up with a diet plan that is healthy for you.

6 Things You Can do to Prevent Breast Cancer

A More Healthful Lifestyle Can Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer

An apple a day may keep the doctor away. It might seem simple, but the truth is that living a more healthful lifestyle has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, as well as many other cancers, regardless of your family history.

Be sure to talk with your health care provider, especially when it comes to how your family history impacts your risk. However, it’s been shown that moving more and eating better has a positive impact on your health and overall lifetime risk of cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, about 33 percent of breast cancer cases can potentially be prevented with some basic lifestyle changes. 

1. Lose it

Maintaining a healthy weight puts you at a lower risk for developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. If you are overweight, studies have shown that losing even a modest amount of weight (approximately seven percent of your body weight) can improve your health. Maintaining a BMI under 26, especially in post-menopausal women, has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

2. Move

A small amount of exercise can add big results. Studies have shown that 150 minutes of exercise per week can impact weight loss. Try a new class, join a gym or simply go on a 10-minute walk after most of your meals. Find something that interests you so you’ll stick with it and start slowly to avoid injury.

3. Focus on plants

Eating a plant-based diet rich in fruits, nuts and vegetables can provide a variety of healthful antioxidants that have been shown to prevent cancer. Other foods offering cancer-reducing effects include soy, green tea, turmeric, ground flaxseed, the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, as well as fish oil, garlic and onions.

4. Try soy

In Asia, where soy consumption is much higher, the rates of breast cancer are much lower. It’s considered safe to consume one-to-two servings of soy per day by eating foods like tofu, edamame and protein bars. Although because soy can act as an estrogen in the body, there are different recommendations for those who have a family risk of estrogen-positive breast cancer. Check with your health care provider. 

5. Avoid fad diets and red meat

Focus on eating to maintain for your long-term health. The American Cancer Society says to avoid eating processed meats high in the cancer-causing preservative sodium nitrite. They also suggest no more than 18 ounces of “red” meat per week (pork, beef and lamb) in your diet.

6. Get drunk on life

Avoid or reduce your alcohol intake and increase your water intake. Alcohol is a proven carcinogen and contributes to weight gain. It’s recommended that women have no more than one drink per day and a maximum of two for men.

If either side of your family has a history of breast cancer before the age of 50, male breast cancer or ovarian cancer, you may be a candidate for genetic testing and you should speak to your physician about getting tested.

7 Ways to Stay Healthy as You Age

Aging Well

Clinicians for ages have shared the importance of exercise, emphasizing its positive impact on the heart, waistline and longevity. But exercising can be a boon to the brain as well. Physical activity actually increases the amount of oxygen that flows to your brain, improving mental acuity and concentration. The endorphins released during workouts also help to reduce incidence of depression and anxiety disorders, as well as improving your sleep patterns and moo

Exercise can also help older adults reduce the need for some medications, and may be as effective as prescriptions for some conditions. Paired with a healthy lifestyle, working out regularly can also reduce the risk of dementia.

As you age, mind and body fitness are more important than ever. Keeping abreast of both can help you to maintain your independence and state-of-mind. 

The idea of starting a new regimen later in life can be daunting, but it can be accomplished in a few easy steps.

1. Pull up a Chair

Chair exercises are an easy way to exercise safely anywhere. Using a sturdy chair, work on standing up and sitting down. Begin by sitting up straight, toward the edge of the chair. While bending slightly forward at your hips, push your weight into your heels and stand up, then sit down slowly. 

2. Be Flexible

Stretching exercises are important for maintaining and improving range of motion in the joints. Stretching does not need to be unpleasant. Gentle stretches performed in a chair or while standing can provide significant improvement in range of motion, balance and fall reduction—all keys to preventing cognitive decline.

3. Join a Group

Group workout programs are a good place to start for anyone new to exercise. Groups for older adults, like Chesapeake Regional’s Silver Sneakers program, provide exercise and social interaction—which can also aid your mental wellbeing.

4. Stay Positive

Exercise, and a positive attitude, can help to reduce stress. Stress can cause an over-secretion of stress hormones that negatively affect memory. By changing your attitude and your routine, you can take the weight off of your shoulders.

5. Play Games

Your regimen shouldn't stop there; cognitive exercises like crossword puzzles and brain teasers keep the brain fit. Reading and math problems also keep the brain youthful. Research has shown that brain exercises can actually improve memory and reduce "fog.” 

6. Feed Your Brain

A heart-healthy diet is also a brain-healthy diet. Damaged blood vessels, which supply the brain with blood, are linked to vascular dementia. Focus on reducing the amount of red meat in your diet and increasing your intake of fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

7. Don’t Give Up

A little bit can go a long way.  As long as you are on the move and keeping your brain active, your whole body—and your future independence—will benefit.

Again, it is never too late to get started on a healthy path. However, if you start to notice changes in your memory, or someone you love is more forgetful than usual, it may be time to seek the guidance of a physician.

Behind the Scenes of a Heart Attack

Learn What Any Hospital Should Do

Have you ever heard of “door-to-balloon time?” It’s that critical amount of time that it takes for a heart attack patient to get from an initial assessment into the Emergency Room, and it should be under 90 minutes. During this time, an accredited Chest Pain Center should begin an intricate set of steps to guide treatment once they receive their patient.

A heart attack patient’s journey first begins in the ambulance

  1. ElectrocardiogramAn electrocardiogram (a test that records the heartbeat rhythm) is given en route to the hospital. The results of this test are electronically sent to the on-call emergency physician.
  2. The "All Call"If the emergency physician determines that the patient is having a heart attack, the physician will activate an “all call,” which prepares the Emergency Department and Cardiac Catheterization Clinic team for the patient’s arrival.
  3. Patient Stabilized After an initial evaluation by the emergency medicine physician and a cardiologist, the patient is stabilized.
  4. Cardiac Lab if necessary, the patient will be transported to the Cardiac Lab for a coronary angiography. This is a rotational X-ray test that uses dye inserted through a catheter to determine if there are any blockages in the coronary arteries.
  5. Procedure is PerformedIf the technician finds a blockage, a “percutaneous coronary intervention” is performed. This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that aims to clear blockages and blood clots. A coronary stent may be placed to widen the artery.
  6. Patient RecoveryThe patient will then recover from surgery in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Patients are usually up and about within an incredible eight-hour time span and can usually go home a few days later.

Learn the Signs of a Heart Attack

As a patient, it’s important to remain cognizant of heart attack symptoms, which are different for men and women. You can find more information and heart healthy tips at heart.org.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re experiencing any unusual and concerning abdominal discomfort, along with chest or jaw pain, seek medical care immediately. It’s your job to catch a heart attack early—the medical team will take care of the rest.

Make a Plan for an Emergency

You know to call 9-1-1 if you or a loved one suffers a life-threatening emergency or illness. But did you know that what you do before and after you make that call can be just as important as dialing those three numbers? Use this guide to find out how you can prepare for an emergency.

When faced with an emergency situation, it is often difficult to stay calm and remember everything you need. Because of this, experts recommend that you prepare for an emergency before it happens by gathering all of the information you’ll need to give the 9-1-1 operator and emergency team.  This includes:

  • Your street address, apartment number and closest cross street
  • A call-back number in case you are disconnected, or emergency personnel have additional questions
  • Chronic medical conditions, if any
  • Recent medical events or illnesses, if any

Keep this information handy (by the telephone or on the refrigerator, for instance) and include contact information for your doctors and family members. Make sure caregivers, babysitters and others know where to find this information. It is also important to have a list of allergies and medications, including how much and how often each is taken.

Just as important as having the patient’s medical history and medication list handy is deciding whether or not a call to 9-1-1 is truly necessary. 9-1-1 services are meant for patients who require rapid evaluation and transport. When 9-1-1 is called and it is not a true emergency, that ambulance and dispatcher are no longer available for someone who is having a true emergency like a heart attack or stroke.

You Just Called 9-1-1. What’s Next?

When a patient or family member calls 9-1-1, they will talk to a dispatcher who is trained to send emergency vehicles to patients and find out preliminary information that can be helpful to emergency personnel.

In case the emergency is happening while the patient or family member is on the phone, 9-1-1 operators are also trained to give advice on how to handle these situations until help arrives. For instance:

  • In a choking victim, the operator may give advice on how to clear a victim’s airway, whether through the Heimlich Maneuver or another method.
  • In a patient who is bleeding, the operator will give advice on how to control the bleeding, such as applying direct pressure until the ambulance arrives.
  • In a patient whose heart has stopped, the operator might give instructions on how to perform CPR while waiting for the ambulance.

Waiting for Help to Arrive

Help is on the way, but don’t hang up the phone until the 91-1 operator tells you to do so. Families or patients can prepare for EMS’s arrival by unlocking doors, grabbing the patient’s medication list and clearing the area from unnecessary bystanders. If the patient is a minor, or an elderly or handicapped person, make sure an adult or person with power of attorney is available to authorize care.  Furthermore, if there is information regarding care that the patient, or their medical power of attorney, does not want to have rendered, such as Do Not Resuscitate status, that information should be readily available to EMS personnel upon their arrival.

While nobody ever hopes to need 9-1-1, it helps to be prepared in case that day comes. In the event of an emergency, a few minutes can make all the difference.

Preventing Food Poisoning this Summer

Ants aren’t the only pests ready to spoil your picnic

Food poisoning may also be lurking around the corner. Here are a few easy food handling steps you can take to keep your summertime al fresco meals healthy and fun!

According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from food borne diseases each year. According to the National Poison Control Center, there are four steps that can help keep your food as safe as possible

1. Clean

Wash your hands and all surfaces that touch meat. Do not wash meat, as it can splash bacteria throughout your kitchen. Clean cutting boards by washing them in hot, soapy water after each use, then rinse with clear water or use a dishwasher, unless the board is laminated. Air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels. To sanitize cutting boards, make a solution with one tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution, let it stand for a few minutes, rinse with clear water, and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.

2. Separate

Keep your fruit, poultry, fish and meat separate at all times, including while your foods are in the grocery cart, bags and refrigerator. While prepping your food, make sure you use separate cutting boards for each food item.

3. Cook

Use a thermometer to ensure food is cooked properly. A free food temperature chart is available on both the CDC and USDA’s websites.

4. Chill

Put leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate immediately. Do not thaw frozen meats on the counter top. Instead, submerge them in cold water, ensuring that you refill with cold water every 30 minutes, or place in the refrigerator for a few days.

Wrapping Up...

Keeping the four steps above in mind, it’s also important to avoid foods that look or taste unusual and to thoroughly reheat leftovers.

From norovirus to salmonella, there are many viruses that cause food poisoning, and the symptoms are similar for each strain. Gastroenteritis, more commonly known as the stomach flu, can be classified by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

To prevent the spread of disease, wash your hands frequently, and limit the number of people you come in contact with.

If your symptoms do not go away within a few days, call your health care provider. A trip to the Emergency Department is only absolutely necessary if you feel dehydrated, have a high fever, yellow eyes or skin, blood in your vomit or stool, or if you are experiencing sharp pain.

5 WAYS TO PREVENT TEXTING WHILE DRIVING 

Every year, there are over 300 thousand texting-while-driving related accidents across the United States. That is more than half of all the distracted driving accidents combined. These accidents can be as small as a fender bender to very devastating, even fatal, crashes. In Houston, the number of distracted driving-related accidents are staggering.

1. TURN OFF THE TEMPTATION

One of the most common, logical ways to avoid texting and driving is not to do it. For some reason, however, a lot of people find this one of the most challenging struggles of their lives, so there are a couple of other things you can do to help you practice self-restraint. Start by turning off your phone or putting your phone on silent when you get in the car. It is important to turn off vibrate and light sensors as well to makes sure that you don’t receive any alerts. A lot of people who don’t like this (because of the constant turning on and off their phone) may also consider keeping the phone out of reach, such as in a glove compartment, under a back seat, or even in the trunk, as many parents require of their teenage children. Removing the temptation completely is going to be the most effective way of avoiding text-related accidents.

2. UTILIZE APPS

If avoiding the temptation is not really your style, you can prevent temptations from happening altogether by utilizing your phone’s technology. There are several apps, many of which are free, that can help drivers block texts or calls while they are driving. Many of these apps will use GPS tracking and lock the phone anytime the vehicle is traveling at a certain speed, and they can include password protection to ensure your teenager won’t be able to tamper with the settings. Parents can also get apps that track driving habits, both for themselves and their children, and other apps will block calls and texts but send out immediate response texts if a car is in motion. Imagine if everyone were utilizing these technological practices for safe driving. Distracting text and calling accidents would dramatically go down across the states.

3. FIND OTHER WAYS TO TEXT

The previously mentioned apps may not be the style of some adults who struggle with texting and driving, but there are other ways they can figure out how to text if they are driving. Bluetooth voice activation is becoming more and more common in cars and there are also apps that immediate read texts as you receive them, eliminating the need to ever take your eyes off the road. These are safer alternatives, though studies have still shown that the conversation itself can be just as distracting as using a mobile device while driving. The best alternative is simply to pull over. If it isn’t worth your time to text and receive an answer, on the side of the road, it is probably not something worth your time while driving, either.

4. USE PASSENGERS IN THE CAR

Sometimes, there are still occasions where you may feel like you need to communicate with someone without stopping your vehicle. If there are passengers in the car capable of texting and reading texts, it may be advantageous to utilize them as a mediator. Hand the phone over to them to read texts and send messages if it is that urgent. If there are no other passengers in the car, there really is no other way around it – your only options are to pull over or just ignore the text or call.

5. TAKE A PLEDGE

AT&T took it upon themselves to start the “It Can Wait” initiative where a community of people can sign a pledge to say they will not text and drive. The commitment to safe, hands-free driving is the first step to saying “No!” to texting and driving in your life, maybe making some of these other suggestions to stop texting and driving a little easier to do.

Heat Stroke Symptoms and Prevention

Heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. This most serious form of heat injury, heatstroke, can occur if your body temperature rises to 104 F (40 C) or higher. The condition is most common in the summer months.
Heatstroke requires emergency treatment. Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death. Grace ER is open 24/7 during the summer months to treat patients who get heat stroke. So what are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms

Heatstroke signs and symptoms include:
  • High body temperature. A core body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher, obtained with a rectal thermometer, is the main sign of heatstroke.
  • Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
  • Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel dry or slightly moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
  • Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
  • Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
  • Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
  • Headache. Your head may throb.

When to see a doctor

If you think a person may be experiencing heatstroke, seek immediate medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency services number. Take immediate action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment.
  • Get the person into shade or indoors.
  • Remove excess clothing.
  • Cool the person with whatever means available — put in a cool tub of water or a cool shower, spray with a garden hose, sponge with cool water, fan while misting with cool water, or place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person's head, neck, armpits and groin.

Causes

Heatstroke can occur as a result of:
  • Exposure to a hot environment. In a type of heatstroke, called nonexertional (classic) heatstroke, being in a hot environment leads to a rise in core body temperature. This type of heatstroke typically occurs after exposure to hot, humid weather, especially for prolonged periods. It occurs most often in older adults and in people with chronic illness.
  • Strenuous activity. Exertional heatstroke is caused by an increase in core body temperature brought on by intense physical activity in hot weather. Anyone exercising or working in hot weather can get exertional heatstroke, but it's most likely to occur if you're not used to high temperatures.
In either type of heatstroke, your condition can be brought on by:
  • Wearing excess clothing that prevents sweat from evaporating easily and cooling your body
  • Drinking alcohol, which can affect your body's ability to regulate your temperature
  • Becoming dehydrated by not drinking enough water to replenish fluids lost through sweating

Risk factors

Anyone can develop heatstroke, but several factors increase your risk:
  • Age. Your ability to cope with extreme heat depends on the strength of your central nervous system. In the very young, the central nervous system is not fully developed, and in adults over 65, the central nervous system begins to deteriorate, which makes your body less able to cope with changes in body temperature. Both age groups usually have difficulty remaining hydrated, which also increases risk.
  • Exertion in hot weather. Military training and participating in sports, such as football or long-distance running events, in hot weather are among the situations that can lead to heatstroke.
  • Sudden exposure to hot weather. You may be more susceptible to heat-related illness if you're exposed to a sudden increase in temperature, such as during an early-summer heat wave or travel to a hotter climate. Limit activity for at least several days to allow yourself to acclimate to the change. However, you may still have an increased risk of heatstroke until you've experienced several weeks of higher temperatures.
  • A lack of air conditioning. Fans may make you feel better, but during sustained hot weather, air conditioning is the most effective way to cool down and lower humidity.
  • Certain medications. Some medications affect your body's ability to stay hydrated and respond to heat. Be especially careful in hot weather if you take medications that narrow your blood vessels (vasoconstrictors), regulate your blood pressure by blocking adrenaline (beta blockers), rid your body of sodium and water (diuretics), or reduce psychiatric symptoms (antidepressants or antipsychotics). Stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and illegal stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine also make you more vulnerable to heatstroke.
  • Certain health conditions. Certain chronic illnesses, such as heart or lung disease, might increase your risk of heatstroke. So can being obese, being sedentary and having a history of previous heatstroke.

Complications

Heatstroke can result in a number of complications, depending on how long the body temperature is high. Severe complications include:
  • Vital organ damage. Without a quick response to lower body temperature, heatstroke can cause your brain or other vital organs to swell, possibly resulting in permanent damage.
  • Death. Without prompt and adequate treatment, heatstroke can be fatal.

Prevention

Heatstroke is predictable and preventable. Take these steps to prevent heatstroke during hot weather:
  • Wear loosefitting, lightweight clothing. Wearing excess clothing or clothing that fits tightly won't allow your body to cool properly.
  • Protect against sunburn. Sunburn affects your body's ability to cool itself, so protect yourself outdoors with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or sweating.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated will help your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature.
  • Take extra precautions with certain medications. Be on the lookout for heat-related problems if you take medications that can affect your body's ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat.
  • Never leave anyone in a parked car. This is a common cause of heat-related deaths in children. When parked in the sun, the temperature in your car can rise 20 degrees F (more than 6.7 C) in 10 minutes. It's not safe to leave a person in a parked car in warm or hot weather, even if the windows are cracked or the car is in shade. When your car is parked, keep it locked to prevent a child from getting inside.
  • Take it easy during the hottest parts of the day. If you can't avoid strenuous activity in hot weather, drink fluids and rest frequently in a cool spot. Try to schedule exercise or physical labor for cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or evening.
  • Get acclimated. Limit time spent working or exercising in heat until you're conditioned to it. People who are not used to hot weather are especially susceptible to heat-related illness. It can take several weeks for your body to adjust to hot weather.
  • Be cautious if you're at increased risk. If you take medications or have a condition that increases your risk of heat-related problems, avoid the heat and act quickly if you notice symptoms of overheating. If you participate in a strenuous sporting event or activity in hot weather, make sure there are medical services available in case of a heat emergency.