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WI Heart Doctor: Beat The Heat Wave

July 18, 2011

MADISON, Wis. - Forecasters say the week ahead could be one of the hottest of the summer for much of Wisconsin and the Midwest, and heat waves can be dangerous. The American Heart Association warns that people on heart medications can have an exaggerated response to the heat and need to take extra precautions.

Dr. Patrick McBride, a cardiologist at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, says people with underlying heart, lung or neurological conditions are especially prone to heat illness, but really hot weather affects everyone.

"A person working outside or in a non-air-conditioned home who is sweating really should be drinking about one quart of water per hour. Especially when we get over the age of 50, our thirst mechanism - our ability to detect thirst - is really reduced."

McBride says hydration is critical during a heat wave, as is taking regular breaks to get out of the sun.

"A number of studies of people who work outside have demonstrated that at least five to 10 minutes of being in the shade to cool off on these very hot days is really vital for outdoor workers."

If you're going to exercise outdoors, try and do it with a buddy, he says, and you should keep an eye on each other. If you start sweating excessively or feel dizzy, stop, cool off and rehydrate, he adds, and if you get to the stage where you're not sweating and start to become confused, it could be heat stroke - a serious, life-threatening emergency requiring immediate medical attention.

McBride advises anyone with someone who has these symptoms should get the victim out of the sun immediately, call 911, and cool off him or her with ice-packs around the neck and head.

"Douse their head in cold water from a hose or douse their body in it - any way you can get cooling - and if there's any question at all, it's vital to get people straight to the hospital."

If you're going to be outside in the heat, drink water even if you don't think you need it, McBride stresses.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI