Heat and Coronavirus: Doctors warn of new risk for heat related illnesses

Heat-related illnesses during coronavirus pandemic

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama summers are hot, and heat related illnesses common.

You’ve probably been told to stay hydrated and stay out of the sun during the heat of the day.

What you may not know though, is that coronavirus can increase a person’s risk of heat exhaustion or stroke.

“A lot of people don’t know they have the coronavirus, either they are a-symptomatic or have mild symptoms especially younger people, so you’re probably sweating a lot and losing some fluids from that. You combine that with getting outside that’s going to make you more prone to heat exhaustion so you need to take even more precautions on the July 4th weekend on preventing and not getting out in the heat certain times of the day,” says Dr. Greg Ledbetter, an Emergency Medicine Physician at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center.

He also says wearing a mask does NOT increase any risk of heat related illness and said everybody needs to be wearing their mask in public.

The other risk, is that many people will be drinking alcohol on the 4th of July, which increases your risk of dehydration.

“If you’re drinking alcohol you’re not thinking about taking care of yourself as much sometimes as the person just sitting there drinking water so be mindful of the fact that if you’re drinking alcohol this weekend to make sure you’re dinking plenty of fluids, using sunscreen and taking care of yourself in other ways.”

Dr. Ledbetter says to look out for signs of heat exhaustion like tiredness, shortness of breath or muscle cramps.

“Heat exhaustion would be where you get so tired, and you start having heat cramps and decreased urination and you feel very dehydrated,” explains Dr. Ledbetter. “Heat stroke is when you actually have a stroke when you are out in the heat, which means you would either pass out or get to the point that you have trouble moving parts of your body or have a terrible headache.”

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