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High Heat Index Takes a Health Toll on the Body

5:14 PM, Jul 18, 2013   |    comments
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ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA9)-- Primary care physician Dr. Randi Kodroff, DO of Inova Medical Group - Ballston says when we sweat, it is the body's mechanism for regulating internal heat.

Lose enough water through perspiration, and you'll start feeling feeling very thirsty, get a headache, and become faint or weak.  Salt depletion from sweating leaves people nauseous, dizzy, and developing muscle cramps.  All of these are signs of heat exhaustion.

 But if a person stops sweating, says Dr. Kodroff, "That is a very dangerous point when the body can no longer use that regulatory mechanism."

As heat stroke sets in and the core body temperature hits 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, Dr. Kodroff says it is  a life-threatening medical emergency.

"Then you are essentially cooking the inside of your body, so you start to get symptoms in all the body organs. People will get pale, their skin will get dry, and eventually they will lose consciousness."

The cardiovascular system is stressed and people with existing heart disease are at high risk for cardiovascular event.  The lungs are affected and any respiratory diseases can be pushed toward a critical state.  Dr. Kordoff says the kidneys are impacted as well.

"Anybody who has high blood pressure, and any kind of kidney problem (is at higher risk), because that is part of our water regulation, our blood pressure regulation," explains Dr. Kordoff.

And the digestive system can also be impacted by days of extreme heat and humidity.

Dr. Kordoff says, "One of the symptoms will be nausea and queasiness in the stomach. Its typical for people not to feel as hungry when it is hot outside."

One final word of advice from this physician: do NOT exercise in the heat of the day.  Work out indoors, early in the morning, or after the sun goes down.

"Make sure you pre-hydrate and have a water bottle with you.  In the middle of the day,  I don't care who you are... its not a good idea to do strenuous exercise outdoors." 

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