Tag Archives: heat

Skin Repair After Sun Damage

July 22, 2013 by

The damage is done. You have been told for years to wear a hat and sunscreen (minimum SPF 30) and to stay out of direct sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. But, again, the sun wrapped you up in its relaxing warmth, and now you’re burnt to a crisp.

You can almost feel the crows feet forming around your eyes and the deep creases folding into your forehead. Is there anything you can do to lessen the damage? Justin G. Madson, M.D., Ph.D., dermatologist at Midwest Dermatology Clinic, P.C., gives practical advice on remedies for both serious and mild sunburns.

If you have a serious sunburn, you need to see your doctor immediately. “Signs of serious sunburn are blistering, a rash, excessive itching immediately following sun exposure, fever, or an infection that results from scratching or an open blister,” says Dr. Madson.

“Excessive pain is also a sign that it is time to see a doctor, especially if it cannot be controlled by over-the-counter pain relievers. Your dermatologist can prescribe treatments for these symptoms, including prescription cortisone creams, antihistamines, and pain relievers.”

For milder burns, try a couple home remedies. “Sooth the area with a cold, wet cloth for 10-15 minutes. This takes the heat out of the skin,” says Dr. Madson. A cool bath and moisturizing lotion can also be helpful. However, “avoid lotions that contain petrolatum [i.e. Vaseline], as these ointments form a barrier that traps the heat within the sunburned skin.

“Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help with moderate pain,” says Dr. Madson. After trying some of these immediate remedies, it is a good idea to let your skin heal on its own. “Leave blisters alone. They are nature’s Band-Aids and protect newly healing skin from dirt and bacteria on the surface of the skin. The outer layers of your skin are there to protect what is underneath. Allow nature to shed the skin when it is no longer needed.”

If you are on vacation and cannot avoid the sun, “apply sunscreen SPF 30+ liberally to all areas of the skin and wear long-sleeve, sun-protective clothing. The sun’s damaging rays can penetrate clothing, so it’s necessary to double your efforts,” says Dr. Madson. “Make sure the fabric is a little loose. Tight fabric stretches, letting in more light. And try to plan vacation activities outside during morning, late afternoon, and evening hours when the harmful rays are not as strong.

“There is a long list of skin conditions caused by long-term sun exposure, the most serious of which is skin cancer. It’s a serious, invasive cancer that spreads to vital organs in the body if not diagnosed and treated early. And sun exposure, especially sunburn, is the leading cause,” says Dr. Madson.

Next time you cozy into the lawn chair on a sunny summer afternoon, remember this statistic from Dr. Madson: “Studies show that your risk of developing melanoma doubles after five sunburns in your lifetime. That’s why sun protection is so important.”

Surprising Fact: “We get more sun damage through the car window than previously thought. A new study found that 53 percent of skin cancers occur on the left side of the body as opposed to the middle or right side. That is attributed to the many miles we put behind the wheel and the increased sun exposure. Whether the window is rolled down or up, you are at risk—windshield glass only protects us from UVB rays. We get a steady dose of UVA while driving (or as a passenger). Reflective factors, such as snow or water, also increase dangers of ultraviolet light,” says Dr. Madson.

What to Do When Your Vehicle Overheats

The summer heat not only affects us, it also affects our vehicles. Our vehicles are much more likely to overheat during the hot summer months.

It is important to do what you can to prevent your vehicle from overheating in the first place. Making sure to use the proper coolant for your vehicle is extremely important. Not all coolants are safe for all vehicles. Also, making sure that there is enough coolant in your system before driving is going to save you from a possible overheating scenario. If you notice that your vehicle is overheating—steam coming out of the hood and/or your temperature gauge going past the halfway mark and into the red zone—turn off your air conditioning and turn on your heat to full blast. Doing this will transfer some of the heat away from the engine to the inside of the vehicle.

Pull over, especially if there’s not a service station nearby, and turn the engine off. Pop the hood, but let it cool down before completely opening it. NEVER open the radiator cap while the vehicle is still hot; this is very dangerous. The radiator cap should be cool to the touch before opening. Look in the coolant reservoir to see if there is coolant in there. It is always a good idea to carry a bottle of coolant with you. In a pinch, you can use water.

If you have antifreeze with you, fill your reservoir with the coolant once your vehicle has cooled down. Your vehicle manufacturer should have stipulations on which types of antifreeze to use. Some are premixed; others need to be mixed with a 50/50 combo of coolant and water. If your radiator is not properly holding the fluid, there could be a leak somewhere, and it’s important to get it checked immediately.

If the vehicle does not seem to be cooling down, and there is not a service station nearby, it may be necessary to call roadside assistance for a tow.

Watch Out for Heat Stroke

June 20, 2013 by

Most people—especially those of us who know how muggy and hot Nebraska summers can be—have suffered from heat exhaustion at least once. It usually hits us after we’ve spent too much time outdoors in the blazing sun and haven’t been drinking enough fluids to keep us properly hydrated.

Heat exhaustion is pretty easy to recognize. Muscles cramp up, fatigue sets in, and sometimes lightheadedness or fainting can occur. But never write off heat exhaustion as “not that big of a deal” because it can be a precursor to a more serious heat injury called heat stroke.

Robert Muelleman, M.D., Chair of Emergency Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine at UNMC, explains that heat stroke usually causes alteration or damage to a person’s mental state. “It could be as mild as confusion or as severe as seizures,” he says. “Heat stroke damages a lot of different organs—brain, heart, liver, kidneys. That’s why it can be so deadly.”

Dr. Muelleman categorizes heat stroke into two types: classic heat stroke and exertion heat stroke. “Classic heat stroke is the one you read about during a heat wave in the summer. It typically affects elderly people with chronic medical conditions, like diabetes, hypertension, or emphysema. The issue there isn’t necessarily the daytime highs but rather the nighttime lows. If the temperature doesn’t drop below 80° for 72 hours, that’s when we’ll see classic heat stroke. The body doesn’t have a chance to cool down.”

“Heat stroke damages a lot of different organs—brain, heart, liver, kidneys. That’s why it can be so deadly.” – Robert Muelleman, M.D., UNMC

Exertion heat stroke, however, can happen to anybody, and it doesn’t even have to be that hot outside. It’s more about the heat index, explains Dr. Muelleman. “Heat index takes into account the humidity. If the heat index rises above 105°, then everyone is at risk. If it rises above 115°, then athletic and outdoor events really should be canceled.” With exertion heat stroke, it’s a matter of whether or not your body is unable to dissipate the heat or is generating too much heat.

When the body’s temperature control is overwhelmed, it can’t effectively cool down the body. Sweating is the normal response to overheating, but several factors can inhibit the body’s ability to cool itself—things like high humidity, obesity, fever, mental illness, poor circulation, heart disease, sunburn, and prescription drug or alcohol use.

Healthy children and adults are susceptible to heat stroke exertion in the summer because working in the heat or participating in summer sports can put them at risk. Babies, too—especially those left in cars when it’s hot. “Car temperatures rise so fast,” Dr. Muelleman says. “It’s extremely dangerous to leave a baby in the car during the summer.”

As for the symptoms of heat stroke, the Mayo Clinic recognizes the following:

  • High body temperature—usually 104°F (40°C) or higher
  • Lack of sweat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing heart rate
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Muscle cramps or weakness

If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, immediately call 911 or transport them to the hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal. While waiting for aid, move the person to an air-conditioned environment and attempt to cool them down by removing unnecessary clothing, fanning air over them, wetting skin with cool water from a cloth or sponge, or applying ice packs.

Feeling the Heat

Everyone loves a little fun in the sun, but when people linger in the sun’s rays a little too long, it can have harmful effects on their health, especially for seniors.

Heat-related illnesses, collectively known as hyperthermia, occur when the body overheats and does not have the sufficient means to cool itself down. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the elderly are more prone to the sun’s harmful rays because they are more likely to have a chronic medical condition or take medication that inhibits normal body responses to heat.

“People who work in high heat develop a certain degree of tolerance. With the elderly, their ability to adapt to extreme temperatures is limited, and the body’s ability to maintain status quo is much more at risk,” says Kris Stapp, vice president of community and public health at Omaha’s Visiting Nurse Association.

Heat exhaustion is a mild form of heat stress. Continuous exposure to high temperatures, combined with high humidity and physical exertion, can lead to dehydration. If you develop heavy sweating, a pale complexion, muscle cramps, and a sense of tiredness, you may be suffering from heat exhaustion. If not controlled, heat exhaustion can escalate to heat stroke, which can cause permanent brain and organ damage.

Stapp stresses the importance of taking into account the timing of outdoor activities, especially strenuous ones such as gardening or walking. Older folks may need to adapt their outdoor plans in times of extreme heat.

“What is dangerous about any heat-related illness is, it comes on so subtly that people don’t realize it’s happening until the symptoms really set in,” Stapp says. “When people get to the point where they are confused, it can lead to unconsciousness.”

To combat heat stress, the CDC advises drinking plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. Make sure to get plenty of rest and try to stay in air-conditioned environments during the heat of the day. Also, make sure to wear lightweight clothing if venturing outdoors.

“Be smart,” Stapp says. “It’s about turning all this information around, and not only knowing the warning signs, but also how to prevent it from happening.”