Tips to avoid heat exhaustion, heat stroke ahead of Sunday’s excessive heat warning

Jul 16, 2022, 10:58 PM | Updated: 11:17 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — With an excessive heat warning or excessive heat advisory hitting much of Utah Sunday, an emergency physician for the University of Utah Health is handing out helpful tips to make sure people spending time outdoors don’t end up in the emergency room.

Dr. Scott McIntosh explained that it’s easy to head out on a hike and not drink as much water as one should, or push harder than they should, and the body starts to get weak and tired in the sweltering temps.

He sees patients come in for heat stroke after overdoing it outside — one of the most severe heat-related illnesses. McIntosh described how the body’s internal temperature begins to match the outside, at 104 or 105 degrees.

“The organs at those high temperatures are really just literally being cooked,” he said. “And so it’s essential to reverse the heat process as quick and as aggressively at you can.”

If you’re thinking of a lake day or cooling off in the mountains, McIntosh recommended proper gear and supplies before heading out the door.

“Make sure you have a hat, sunglasses, and some light fitting clothing so that you can protect yourself from the heat,” he said. “Also make sure to bring plenty of water and/or sports drinks, and just some good snacks to make sure that your body’s fueled well for these adventures.”

McIntosh said to keep outdoor activities to the early morning or evening, if possible.

He described signs of heat exhaustion as feeling weak and tired, and potentially nauseous. He said heat exhaustion isn’t as serious as heat stroke and is easily reversible.

“You can get into the shade, drink a little bit of water, get some food, snacks and usually within half an hour or so — 30 or 60 minutes — you feel a lot better and are ready to get out on the trail again,” McIntosh explained.

Heat stroke is much more severe. McIntosh said signs include an altered mental state, confusion, agitation, slurred speech and seizures. Heat stroke requires medical attention, he said.

In addition to staying hydrated and watching for signs within yourself, McIntosh talked about the importance of staying aware of those around you and recognizing any potential signs for heat exhaustion or heat stroke within them. He suggested making sure they are drinking plenty of water.

“Definitely watch your companions, your family and friends when you’re out,” he said. “Whether it’s in the middle of the day or high in the mountains, and keep an eye on everyone.”

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Tips to avoid heat exhaustion, heat stroke ahead of Sunday’s excessive heat warning