Covington, Louisiana – While getting sweaty and sticky is one uncomfortable side effect of enjoying the south Louisiana sun, it is important to remember that the heat can do more than make you uncomfortable – it can make you sick, or worse.

Heatstroke, the most severe form of heat illness, can be fatal if left untreated. According to the Centers for Disease Control, extreme heat caused 7,415 heat-related deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2010.

“The heat and humidity of South Louisiana has been reaching dangerous levels very quickly,” said Dr. Chad Muntan, Lakeview Regional Medical Center’s emergency department medical director. “We see a rise of heat related illnesses in the emergency room in young children and the elderly, because their body’s natural cooling system adjusts to the heat slower than the average adult.”

The good news is heat-related illnesses are preventable. To stay cool during this heatwave and avoid heatstroke and other heat illnesses, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Never leave children, infants or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are open.
  • Wear lightly colored, lightweight, loosely fitting clothing to keep cool and comfortable.
  • Plan outdoor activities for the coolest times of day, such as early morning or later in the evening.

What to do if someone has heat-related illness

If you spot any signs of heat stroke – such as dry, hot and red skin; dark urine; extreme confusion; rapid, shallow breathing; or rapid, strong pulse – seek emergency medical care immediately. This condition can be deadly, and it occurs when the body’s temperature rises above 104 degrees, inhibiting the body’s ability to sweat. Organs, including the brain, begin to fail, and the body starts to shut down.

Anyone showing signs of heat exhaustion – muscle cramps, heavy sweating, weakness, headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, pale skin color, or fainting – should be taken to a shady or air-conditioned spot and told to lie down. Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits and groin to help cool the blood. If the person can swallow, give them nonalcoholic fluids, like water or apple juice. Heat exhaustion is less serious and usually occurs as the result of prolonged exposure to heat and a loss of body fluid. If heat exhaustion goes untreated, it can quickly progress to heat stroke.