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Summer’s coming and along with fun in the sun comes rising temperatures and, in some places, suffocating humidity, making it difficult for people to breathe indoors and out.

Dr. Rani Whitfield, a physician based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said in a television interview on “Louisiana: The State We’re In“, that “heat-related illnesses and injuries kill more people than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods together.”
Children under 4, seniors over 65, people without access to air conditioning and those who are on medication – particularly diuretics – are particularly vulnerable. And even those having fun in the sun, drinking alcohol and even sugar-sweetened non-alcoholic drinks, all of which are diuretics, can lead to dehydration.

It is critical that people remember to drink plenty of water and electrolyte replacement drinks (i.e. Gatorade), said Whitfield, aka The Hip-Hop Doctor, who may be best known best known for his appearances on BET’s 106 & Park series and iVillage.

Whitfield has been on a mission to improve social conditions and health care services for African Americans and is the founder of the “Hip-Hop Medical Moment,” a one-minute audio series on pertinent medical topics.

The most serious heat-related illnesses are heat stroke, heat exhaustion, cramping and edema (swelling). Key symptoms include profuse sweating, vomiting and nausea. In some instances, people don’t sweat, but their core body temperature is dangerously high (104 degrees).

According to WebMD, heat stroke results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, usually in combination with dehydration, which prevents the body from controlling its core temperature.

People suffering from heat-related illnesses can often become disoriented and experience hallucinations, seizures and lose consciousness. In very extreme cases, their organs may begin to shut down.

Symptoms of heat stroke or other related problems include a throbbing headache, dizziness, muscle weakness or cramps, rapid, shallow breathing, red, hot and dry skin.

Whitfield recommends people stay out of the sun, drink plenty of fluids and get inside to a cool place, if possible.

If you suspect that someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 or take the person to the hospital. While waiting for emergency personnel, move the person to an air-conditioned space or at least a shaded area and remove any unnecessary clothing. You also may fan the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose, apply ice packs to the person’s armpits, groin, neck and back or immerse the person in a shower or tub of cool water, or an ice bath. Don’t hesitate to call 911 for further instructions if there is any delay in emergency response.

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