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footballheat

Beat the Heat

Bernard Fote, MD, Chief of emergency services for Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are highly preventable with a little precaution and an awareness of the warning signs.

As the temperature rises, so does the incidence of heat stroke. From 1999 to 2010, an estimated 7,415 Americans died of heat-related causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There were more than 480 emergency department visits due to heat-related illness during one week in June across North Carolina, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly three-quarters of people stricken by the heat were adult men between the ages of 25 to 64.

“When there’s a rapid weather change and it gets suddenly humid and hot, we see the spectrum of symptoms from dehydration to heat cramps and occasionally heat stroke,” said Bertrand Fote, MD, medical director of emergency services for Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center.

As the mercury rises, people should take several measures to protect themselves, he said. Rising temperatures can cause high body temperatures, organ and brain damage as people’s bodies struggle to cool themselves. Normally, the body’s natural cooling mechanism, sweat, evaporates off the skin to cool the body, but in extreme heat that evaporation might not be enough to cool you off.

footballheat2Dr. Fote said an abrupt change in humidity – more than a rise in temperatures – will affect the body’s cooling mechanism.

Some people are more susceptible to extreme heat than others. Those most at risk to heat-related conditions include the elderly, children, poor or homeless people without access to air conditioning, workers or athletes who are outside for long periods of time, and people with chronic medical conditions.

“The elderly are most susceptible to classic heat illnesses or heat exhaustion because they have trouble adjusting to significant changes in temperature,” Fote said. “People with high blood pressure using medication to manage that condition are also at risk because the drugs affect the fluid levels in the body.”

Exertional heat illness can affect athletes who try to maintain their normal fitness routines but haven’t yet acclimated to a rise in humidity or heat, he added.

What’s the difference between heat stroke and exhaustion?

The difference between these two heat-related conditions is in the symptoms and severity.

According to the CDC, symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • A pulse that is either too fast or too slow
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

 

Heat stroke can manifest in other ways, including:

 

  • A body temperature higher than 103 degrees
  • Skin that feels hot, red or moist to the touch
  • A quick and strong pulse
  • Unconsciousness

 

“People can appear confused or they may be delirious or suffer hallucinations,” adds Dr. Fote.

When symptoms of heat exhaustion are present, experts suggest seeking a cooler location, loosening clothes, lying down, and drinking water. Also, applying cool, wet cloths to face and body can help cool you down. If you are vomiting uncontrollably, you should seek medical attention.

With symptoms of heat stroke, the CDC says to call 911 right away. As with heat exhaustion, the person should move to a cooler spot and have cold compresses applied to the body. The agency says not to drink fluids.

Preventing heat-related illness

To stay healthy during a heat wave, the CDC recommends the following preventive measures.

Keep your body cool by staying in an air conditioned environment. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, find a public shelter where you can. Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing. Take cool showers.

Because it’s easy to quickly become dehydrated when it gets really hot, it is important to drink more water than usual and not to wait until you feel thirsty to do so. Avoid dehydrating drinks such as alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks.

Dr. Fote said replenishing electrolytes is important, too. Sports drinks like Gatorade or an electrolyte-infused water like Smartwater help replenish lost electrolytes.

The doctor said people should make sure their elderly neighbors stay safe and have working air conditioning. “If you’re working outside or exercising, remember to take a break and cool off,” he stressed.

The CDC also recommends checking in on vulnerable neighbors in the community, never leaving a child or a pet unattended in a car, and bringing pets in from outside. For more information, visit Novanthealth.org.

xmas-trees

Christmas Trees of Davidson County

A Winter Wonderland

Again this year, people from across the Triad will visit Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center to celebrate the holidays as businesses and civic organizations decorate trees for a month long display. Then, as it has for more than a decade, TMC’s lobby transforms into a festive winter wonderland with the lighting of the annual Christmas Trees of Davidson County. The lobby is open for visitors to enjoy daily from 6:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

“This is the Foundation’s gift to the community during the holidays,” shares Novant Health Foundation Thomasville Medical Center executive director, Susan Reece. “The winter wonderland serves as a one of a kind holiday greeting to those who support us throughout the year. It is truly a spectacular sight to stroll through the lobby of sparkling and festive Christmas trees.”

The entry hall at Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center
The entry hall at Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center

Thomasville Medical Center has become a favorite holiday gathering place for the community. Each tree is uniquely decorated and has a story of its own. There is no cost to a business or civic group to participate. Some organizations donate the decorated tree to the foundation which accepts bids through a silent auction on the trees throughout the month. The lucky winner then purchases a beautifully decorated holiday tree with proceeds benefiting the foundation.

Reece shares that money from this year’s auction is earmarked for the hospital’s growing oncology program, providing patients in financial need who are being treated for cancer with nutritional supplements and an exercise program to aid recovery. Proceeds will also be used to help launch rehabilitative support for patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

“We want people to view the hospital as a place of wellness, and hosting something that brings people to the hospital for no other reason than to view the trees and celebrate the holidays is a great opportunity,” says Reece.

Throughout the month are a variety of activities going on in the lobby as well. Visitors can enjoy carolers from an area church or daycare, employees singing around the piano, and samples of hot cider or cocoa. Visitors come by car, bus and caravan, and many families use the festive scenery as a backdrop for their annual holiday card to friend and families.

Reece recalls observing a young couple with their two day old baby posing for their first family photos using the trees as the backdrop. “They even put the baby under one of the trees for the picture like the baby was the gift,” says Reece. “And then there were those who visited from area nursing homes and visited with Santa. They shared they couldn’t remember the last time they talked with Santa. We are honored to be a part of the community and are honored to share this winter wonderland with each and every visitor.”