To Your Health Coping with Florida’s Heat

Don’t let sum­mer’s blaz­ing tem­per­a­tures spoil your fun. Heed the ad­vice of th­ese health ex­perts to stay safe

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS -

South­west Florida sum­mers are more than the months marked on cal­en­dars. Sum­mer weather marches into the area when North­ern­ers still wear jack­ets, and it lingers long, seem­ingly for­ever, grip­ping us in a sweaty bear hug and re­fus­ing to let go.

There are two ways to mark sea­sons: me­te­o­ro­log­i­cally and as­tro­nom­i­cally. Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal sum­mer is June 1 to Aug. 31. Astro­nom­i­cal sum­mer is the one on the cal­en­dar, from June 21 to Sept. 22.

Nei­ther def­i­ni­tion gives jus­tice to the re­gion’s in­ter­minable sum­mers. The av­er­age high tem­per­a­ture in Fort My­ers is 90 or higher from May 18 through Sept. 24, ac­cord­ing to in­tel­li­cast.com. Heck, the av­er­age Fort My­ers low doesn’t dip be­low 70 de­grees from May 22 through Oct. 11.

South­west Florida res­i­dents and vis­i­tors should take the heat and hu­mid­ity se­ri­ously, ac­cord­ing to health ex­perts. Dr. Brian Schultz is a pe­di­atric emer­gency room physi­cian at the Golisano Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal of South­west Florida. He knows about the re­lent­less heat and its dan­gers. He says he doesn’t see many cases of heat ex­haus­tion, but he uses each case as a teach­ing mo­ment. Schultz em­pha­sizes the im­por­tance of hy­dra­tion, which means drink­ing plenty of flu­ids for ath­letes or any­body else stay­ing out­side for work or plea­sure.

Pro­vid­ing am­ple wa­ter for ath­letes wasn’t al­ways the case. In 1954, foot­ball coach Bear Bryant ran a bru­tal Texas A&M Univer­sity foot­ball camp. A blog­ger named Kelly Ly­tle quoted from au­thor Jim Dent’s The Junc­tion Boys, a 1999 book about that camp.

“Bryant be­lieved the fastest way to whip a team into shape was to deny the boys wa­ter, even in the bru­tal heat,” Dent wrote.

That is no longer com­mon prac­tice in sports. “The men­tal­ity that you don’t get a wa­ter break un­til you de­serve it has passed by,” Schultz says. He used the term “ex­er­tional heat stroke” to de­scribe what hap­pens by play­ing sports or work­ing out in heat. “It’s a spec­trum of ill­nesses,” Schultz stresses.

Par­ents of chil­dren show­ing symp­toms like not sweat­ing or sweat­ing too much or ap­pear­ing dis­ori­ented shouldn’t take long to act. “I would call 9-1-1 im­me­di­ately,” Schultz says. “And get the kid out of the heat and start the cool­ing process im­me­di­ately.” Symp­toms should be taken se­ri­ously. As flori­da­health.gov notes: “Heat ex­haus­tion is of­ten con­sid­ered a warn­ing of im­pend­ing heat stroke, and if un­treated, heat ex­haus­tion typ­i­cally turns into heat stroke.”

Schultz says he has seen a case where a pa­tient’s body tem­per­a­ture reached 114.

“They were im­me­di­ately cooled, and their out­come was good,” he says.

Mark Te­soro is an an­a­lyst, health ed­u­ca­tor and in­jury pre­ven­tion spe­cial­ist at Lee Health. He also knows about the heat and its dan­gers. “De­hy­dra­tion turns very quickly into heat ex­haus­tion,” Te­soro says. He urges peo­ple to drink wa­ter be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter sport­ing events. If an ath­lete isn’t hy­drated, Te­soro knows what can hap­pen. “Bad things hap­pen quickly,” he says. That leads to sit­u­a­tions where, he adds, “your body starts to shut down very quickly.”

Florida’s scorch­ing sum­mers are not to be tri­fled with by young or old, and heed­ing the ad­vice of the ex­perts will make your dog days more en­joy­able and most im­por­tantly safe.

Heat ex­haus­tion is of­ten con­sid­ered a warn­ing of im­pend­ing heat stroke, and if un­treated, heat ex­haus­tion typ­i­cally turns into heat stroke. —flori­da­health.g ov

Free­lance writer Glenn Miller is pres­i­dent of the South­west Florida His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety and a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

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