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Life and Religion

Heatís on, so protect yourself from illness when you step outdoors
As temperatures and humidity rise, take care
Published Wednesday, July 29, 2020 4:40 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Proper hydration is always important, especially during outdoor summer workouts.

Summer in North Carolina feels hotter this year.

The average high for Charlotte in July is 90 degrees – 94 while this story was being written.  With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting how and where people spend their time, it can be difficult to balance feeling stuck at home with spending time outside. Whether you are a competitive athlete, want to head outside for exercise or just get out in general, heat-related illness is a concern.

“The biggest reason patients come into the emergency department with a heat related injury is lightheadedness, dizziness and fatigue,” Atrium Health Emergency Department physician Dr. Bryant Allen said. “When you start to collect history from them you find out they have been outside since early in the morning. They have had minimal intake of liquid. They have had little exposure to shade, and now all the sudden they are feeling a little nauseated. They are feeling a little lightheaded. They are feeling unwell.  It’s not typical that we get to the extremes of patients in the form of altered mental status or extreme confusion or extreme muscle aches or pains that you get in later stage heat-related illness or heat stroke.”

Allen explained the spectrum for heat-related illness is very similar to what is seen among COVID-19 cases.

“What we can do is if you are planning to be outside, make sure you are taking in plenty of liquid, spending as much time in the shade if at all possible, wearing cool, light-colored clothing, and trying to be exposed to some sort of fan or breeze if at all possible because you would hate to develop symptoms that sound similar to coronavirus and not know what is going on,” Allen said. “If you can stay hydrated and you start exhibiting those symptoms, it may mean that you need evaluation for something else rather than heat-related illness.”

Should you need to seek medical care at Atrium, you will be screened upon arrival and asked to wear a mask to mitigate the potential spread of coronavirus.

Allen still encourages people to spend time outside – just take the necessary precautions.

“It gives you a great way to practice social distancing,” he said, “but just remember it’s hot and the humidity doesn’t help.”

Hydrating ideally means drinking a lot of water. Stay away from caffeinated beverages, as they cause dehydration. Sports drinks are not ideal because of the amount of sugar in them. However, replenishing with a drink containing electrolytes following a workout is OK.

“Sugar can be good and helpful when you’re doing athletics and burning a lot of energy, but what I’m trying to ask patients is do it in balance,” Allen said. “Remember, we’re 70-plus percent water. Your body is going to burn through some of that when you are out in the hot sun. You are going to lose it through sweat and when you go to the bathroom. Just keep water on you at all times, and that is going to be the best you can do. If you have been out for a long time and you’ve been sweating, that may be a time to reach for some electrolytes, but largely you’re going to get that the majority of that stuff from your regular diet. Supplementing with a sports drink is fine. Just make sure it’s not the only thing you’re doing.”

The best way to determine if you are properly hydrated may not be the most fun, but it is the most effective.

“It seems kind of silly, but take a look at your urine,” Allen said. “If your urine is running clear, you are probably hydrated enough. If you start to get a bright yellow or a dark yellow to it, you are way behind, so go ahead and drink. That can be a better way to track your hydration than saying, ‘oh I’m thirsty or not [thirsty].’”


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