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Staying Safe in the South Carolina Sun

U.S. Air Force, Senior Airman Sandra Marrero

South Carolina ranked first in the United States for child vehicular heatstrokes in 2018, and with Palmetto State temperatures reaching highs of 100 degrees during the summertime, heat exhaustion is a serious, life-threatening danger, and residents should know the signs of danger.

Those who are especially vulnerable to the summer heat include young children, the elderly, and individuals who take anxiety and depression medication.

Dr. Steve Shelton
Dr. Steve Shelton

Steve Shelton, the Medical Director for Emergency Management for Prisma Health Midlands and physician said that the first sign is heat cramps. The next sign is fatigue.

Symptoms include nausea, headaches, and dizziness. "They'll get some dizziness, kind of swimmy-headed, they may feel very fatigued, nauseated, a headache, sweating significantly, those individuals need to try to treat themselves very quickly by trying to get cool and stop what they're doing."If all symptoms are left untreated, the heat exhaustion could then potentially progress to heatstroke.

Before getting out in South Carolina's hot summer sun, there's more than a few things residents can do to prepare for the heat. Dr. Guy Castles III, a Columbia pediatrician who took over his father's clinic in 1991, said that hydrating before, during and after an activity is recommended. Castles also said that "eating foods that pertain salts to help keep the fluid intravascularly is another good idea."

The difference between knowing the difference between a sports drink and a caffeinated drink is also important, Shelton said. "There is a difference between sports drinks and energy drinks, caffeine itself, and all of the sugars that come with those drinks, can further dehydrate you."

While some might think that heat exhaustion can only occur from more strenuous activities, the burning temperatures any physical activity should be preceded with caution, Shelton said, "I think it's any physical activity of being outside. We're all different, so one activity for you may be a different activity for me, and you really have to know your body."

Credit WNYC, New York

High school student-athletes in the state, such as football players participating in 'two-a-day' practices in the dog days of summer. "We've all been adolescents and teens at times, so we think we're immortal and bulletproof, so those are probably not aware, we have to rely on the coaching staff and the athletic trainers," Shelton said.

Misconceptions do exist about what time is best to head outdoors in the sweltering sun, Castles said. First, it's when the weather is overcast. "They think that just because the sun's not out there, they don't have to worry about the heat." Next, it's the time of day. "They think that the late afternoon is the perfect time, and sometimes that's the hottest part of the day. You should save heavy activities for the early mornings when it's cooler," he said.

Last but not least, both doctors each had a final piece of advice. Shelton said that "the most recommended advice is to stay out of the heat if possible." Finally, Castles noted that "frequent breaks are very important."