Listen to your body to avoid heat-related illnesses


Story Updated: Jul 18, 2013

Dr. Mohsin Syed, a doctor of internal medicine at the Slocum Dickson Medical Group in New Hartford says the weather conditions we are seeing here in the Mohawk Valley this week are optimal conditions for heat stroke, and wants to urge people to listen to their bodies carefully.

Dr. Syed says the insides of your body can really get messed up if you do become a victim of heat stroke, that's if you survive it, "With full-fledged heat stroke, your temperature can go above 106, where you can actually get dehydration to the point where it can be harmful to the brain. It can be harmful for your heart and your kidneys can fail because of dehydration."

Having worked previously in Boise, Idaho, Dr. Syed says temperatures there often reached 100 degrees plus, and that's where he has seen a number of people who have suffered heat stroke.

He says we usually don't see long stretches of this type of weather here, which is why heat stroke is not as prevalent here, but the conditions we are seeing right now, are optimal conditions for heat stroke, which he describes as a life-threatening condition with symptoms of high body temperature, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing and confusion that requires immediate attention and it begins with simply not drinking enough fluids.

Dr. Syed says listen to your body to make sure you come nowhere close to heat stroke.

"If you're getting light-headed, heat cramps, muscle cramps, if you're getting these, this means things are not right, you have to find some shade," Dr. Syed said. "And if we ignore these signs then we get into the heat stroke."

Kevin Quiros, with P & C Residential and Commercial Construction in Utica was high atop a roof on Walker Road in Deerfield Thursday afternoon.

He says he and his co-workers replacing a residential roof definitely heed Dr. Syed's warning.

"We work for about an hour, then we come down for about 15 minutes, drink a little bit of water, then we get up there," Quiros said.

However, Dr. Syed says an hour is way too long to stay out in this heat, especially on a hot roof. He says everyone should get out of the heat every 15 to 20 minutes and drink at least 20 ounces of liquid in that 15 to 20 minute time frame.

That is something Joe Yearby with the Utica Muncipal Housing Authority tried to do Thursday morning as he mowed lawn after lawn at the Humphrey Gardens Apartments.

"That's why I was just taking a break," Yearby said. "Grab some water and then head right back out again."

Yearby says he remembers it being hot in Utica in past summers, but he doesn't remember it being this hot for this long in one stretch.

"The humidity is very high," he said. "The heat's not bad, but it's the humidity is what gets you."

In these conditions, simple exercise, such as walking, can be just as dangerous as working.

We caught up with Russ Service of North Utica as he was taking his normal mid-morning walk Thursday morning. He says he was glad he was almost done, but he too is aware of the danger of heat-related illnesses.

"I drink a lot of fluids, a lot of water," Service said. "I have three children, we make sure they stay hydrated when we're outside. We take precautions."

Dr. Syed says when it comes to eating during conditions like these, try and eat light meals, like salads at lunch and dinner so there is more room for hydration, and he says you can't drink just water. He urges people to also take in what he calls re-hydrating agents, such as watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas and other fruits, so that you replenish the nutrients you need.

"Because when you lose a lot of water, you also lose nutrients," Dr. Syed said. "This is where most people get it wrong. If you're just drinking plain water, you're not replacing nutrients and that's where we need to focus on."

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