Don't Let the Heat Get You

A heat wave is hitting the country, and staying cool isn't just about your comfort level - it's important for your health.

Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. And heat exhaustion, a milder form of heat-related illness, can leave you feeling quite sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There are two common mistakes that lead to heat stroke, said Dr. Frank McGeorge, director of emergency medicine for director of emergency medicine at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.

"First of all, dehydration is the biggest one, not having enough fluid on board," he said. "Second is not recognizing the symptoms, and continuing to exert yourself when you should have cut back. Those are the two biggest mistakes everyone makes."

McGeorge offered these tips for keeping cool in the hot weather:

Place an ice pack on your neck. On your neck, you have a lot of large blood vessels close to the surface, and you can cool them down quickly and cool your blood supply quickly, especially the blood going to your brain. Your armpits and groin are also good areas for ice packs. Your head and chest have too much muscle, bone and tissue in the way.

Drink slightly cold, but not ice cold water. You want to be able drink the water quickly, which you can't do with ice cold water. Room temperature water won't have the cooling effect.

Remember, an adult can suffer from heat stroke in as little as 30 minutes in 90-degree weather. Imagine an elderly person who's obese with high blood pressure and diabetes, who's not well hydrated, going out to dig a hole in 90 degree temperatures with high humidity. That person may go down in 15, 30 minutes. A conditioned athlete who is overexerting himself may take five hours to wear out, but eventually they'll wear out. Humidity is a big problem this time of year, and that's what really wipes you out.