By Becky Carter
President/CNO, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital
Summer means fun in the sun in our beautiful mountains. A critical thing to pay attention to while hiking, biking, swimming, and even just lounging, is to stay well hydrated. Our bodies are about 60 percent water, and keeping our fluid intake up helps both our bodies and our brains.
Lack of proper hydration can lead to serious health issues: heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
Heat exhaustion’s symptoms include more rapid, but possibly fainter, heartbeat, weakness, increased sweating, feeling nauseous or vomiting, clammy skin, muscle cramps, and even fainting. Those experiencing these symptoms should seek shade or an air-conditioned room immediately, rest, and drink water or an electrolyte-infused sports drink. Electrolytes are minerals essential for our bodies’ normal functioning, but they are easily lost through perspiring.
If unrecognized or untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke, which is a life threatening condition. The body becomes unable to cool itself, and those suffering from heatstroke develop a fever above 103 degrees, stop sweating, and their skin becomes red and dry. Rapid heartbeat, dizziness, headache, confusion, and even loss of consciousness can occur. Heat stroke requires a visit to the Emergency Department as soon as possible. Failing to treat heat stroke can lead to damage of internal organs and even death.
To prevent both of these serious conditions, drink plenty of fluids. An adult’s average daily water consumption should be eight 8-ounce glasses. On hot days or times when one is playing sports or doing strenuous outdoor activities, it’s essential to drink more than usual, to make up for the fluids lost. It’s recommended that people who are participating in outdoor sports or working outside in the heat and sun should drink 24 ounces of water or sports drink two hours prior to engaging in the activity, and another eight ounces for every 20 minutes spent working or playing in the sun.
To help avoid heat related illness and injury, do outside work and activities in the cooler early or late hours. Spend time outside in the shade if possible, wear light, moisture-wicking clothing, and take frequent breaks to drink and cool down.
If, despite taking proper precautions, community members experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke, the caregivers at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital are ready and willing to provide prompt, excellent care.
Rebecca W. Carter, MSN, RN, FACHE is President and Chief Nursing Officer of Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine. Carter has served in senior hospital management for over 20 years and previously served as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard, also a part of the Mission Health system.
Ms. Carter is board certified in healthcare management and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE). A native of North Carolina, she holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Carter is currently a resident of Burnsville.