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Doctor talks of ways to stay safe during hot summer months

By JR Ortega
July 5, 2012 at 2:05 a.m.

Izack Flores, 12, does a hand stand at the Victoria City Pool recently. The day Flores was at the pool, the highest temperature hit 100 degrees at 2:45 p.m. while it was partly cloudy.

Let's face it - there really is no such thing as beating the summer heat when you live on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Triple-digit temperatures, coupled with high humidity, makes walking to your car feel like walking through a sauna.

So when you can't beat the heat, Dr. Stephen Hougen said, work with it.

"The cooler you stay, the better you play," said Hougen, Citizens Medical Center's trauma medical doctor.

The rules to this game are simple and may be obvious, he said, but even then, many people don't know how to take proper precaution.

The two biggest worries during the summer: heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

These two heat-related illnesses are quick and a common enough problem in our area, especially with those who work outside or those who are not acclimated to outdoor activities.

Hougen could not cite the exact number of cases each year but said at least one person a year dies from a heat-related illness.

Typically, it has to deal with someone overexerting themselves while outdoors. This tends to be construction workers and athletes.

"No parent wants to see their child go to English class and die," he said. "So why is football any different?"

Everyone is at risk of a heat-related illness, but more so the youth and elderly. Hougen plans to discuss the importance of heat safety in July at Citizens Medical Center.

Some signs to watch for include dehydration, which can lead to headaches, malaise and sometimes nausea and vomiting. This exhaustion can eventually lead to heat stroke, which then could leave to irreversible neurological damage.

If you experience these symptoms, seek shelter in a cool environment. Try to lower your body temperature as much as you can, he said.

Hougen also advises people to avoid being outside during peak heat hours, which tend to be from noon to 3 p.m. If that is not possible, drink plenty of water and electrolyte-type drinks, like Gatorade and Powerade.

If someone is experiencing these symptoms, they could also be in jeopardy and should be rushed to an emergency room, he added.

"It takes a lot of precautions," he said.

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