GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — ECU Health Medical Center has recently seen an uptick in patients visiting the emergency room with heat-related illnesses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600 people in the U.S. die from extreme heat every year, but experts say those deaths are preventable.
Emergency medicine physician and ECU Brody School of Medicine professor Dr. Rochelle Asagbra said there are different levels of severity when it comes to heat-related illness. Mild symptoms include heat cramps and heavy sweating. That could then develop into muscle soreness and muscle cramping.
It can progress to heat exhaustion, which causes symptoms such as lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting, nausea and vomiting. A more severe form of heat-related illness is a heat stroke.
“And that is definitely an emergency and you need to come into the emergency department,” Asagbra said. “And so heat stroke symptoms would be signs of confusion, slurred speech, delirium, sometimes patients can even have seizures or even go into a coma.”
Asagbra said if symptoms from the heat don’t go away within 15 to 30 minutes, it’s best to get evaluated.
“We normally check bloodwork and sometimes their kidney function can be elevated, meaning that their kidneys aren’t working as well due to severe dehydration,” Asagbra said.
“And sometimes depending on their symptoms, we may need to evaluate their heart, their brain or even their muscles,” Asagbra added.
She recommended drinking 12 to 24 ounces of water every 30 to 45 minutes as well as drinking two to three cups of water before even going outside.
“Remember that even if it’s not direct intensity, you can still suffer heat-related illness,” she said.
Other tips include wearing lightweight clothing and apply sunscreen frequently when outdoors.