Heat- and sun-related illnesses can come on fast, especially for the elderly, the very young and people with chronic medical conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Following are common problems brought on by desert summers and what you can do about them.
Symptoms: Mild dehydration: Dry mouth, sticky saliva and reduced urine output with dark yellow urine. Moderate dehydration: Decreased frequency of urination, dark amber or brown urine, increased thirst and faintness that is relieved by lying down.
Treatment: Plain drinking water may be all the treatment that is needed. Adults who need to replace lost electrolytes can drink sport beverages like Gatorade or Propel, or consume a little additional salt.
Parents should follow label instructions when giving children Pedialyte or other commercial products recommended in relieving dehydration. Dehydrated children should receive only clear fluids for the first 24 hours.
Symptoms: Severe, sometimes disabling, cramps that typically begin suddenly in the hands, calves or feet.
Treatment: Move the victim to a cool place and give sips of salt water (one level teaspoon of salt per quart of water). Apply manual pressure to cramped muscle.
Symptoms: Look for fatigue, nausea, headaches, excessive thirst, muscle aches and cramps, weakness, confusion, anxiety and drenching sweats; often accompanied by cold, clammy skin, slowed or weakened heartbeat, dizziness, fainting and agitation.
Treatment: Replacement of fluids and salt. Victim should be moved to a cool environment, laid flat or with feet raised slightly above head level and be given a cool, slightly salty beverage like a sports drink, salted tomato juice, cool bouillon or plain drinking water with salt added.
Symptoms: Watch for nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness or vertigo, fatigue, hot or flushed dry skin, rapid heart rate, decreased sweating, shortness of breath, decreased urination, blood in urine or stool, increased blood temperature, confusion, delirium, loss of consciousness and convulsions.
Treatment: Heatstroke requires emergency medical attention. Move the victim into the shade; wrap him in cool, wet fabric or remove the individual’s clothing and sponge the body with cool water. Ice packs can be placed on the groin, neck or underarms, or the victim can be fanned. Do not give fluids. At the hospital, heatstroke victims may be given intravenous drugs to control seizures.
Symptoms: Cancerous lesions may be small, shiny or waxy; scaly or rough; firm and red; crusty or bleeding. What to look for: Asymmetry, where half of the abnormal skin area is different than the other; irregular borders; color varies from area to area with shades of tan, brown or black; diameter often larger than a pencil eraser.
Treatment: Basal cell carcinoma, the most prevalent form of skin cancer, is removed by scraping, surgery, burning, freezing or radiation. Squamous cell cancer will depend based on tumor size, depth, location and how much it has spread. Surgery and radiation may be used. Chemotherapy is used if surgery and radiation fail. With melanoma, the most grievous form of skin cancer, only the smallest and most shallow can be cured by surgery alone. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy or immunotherapy (use of medications that stimulate the immune system) may also be recommended.
Symptoms: Changed skin color, and possibly fever, vision problems, pain, dehydration and skin blisters.
Treatment: Use cool cloths on sunburned areas. Take frequent, cool showers or baths. Apply soothing lotions with aloe vera to sunburned areas. Topical steroids, such as 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, may help with pain and swelling.