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Keep a Cool Head on Hot, Humid Days to Avoid Heat Stroke

Keeping cool on hot, humid summer days is good advice for more reasons than sheer comfort. It's vital for good health - even staying alive. That's the message from the Pennsylvania Medical Society, warning young and old alike that heat stroke is a deadly illness to be avoided at all costs - even if it means sacrificing a day at the beach.

"Heat stroke is not an accident," says Marilyn J. Heine, M.D., an emergency physician in Bucks County and a member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. "Over the summer, we see too many cases of heat-related illness in the emergency room, but it's a condition that generally can be prevented with a little effort and lots of common sense."

Still, it happens all too frequently. There have been several highly publicized reports of athletes dying from heat stroke in recent years, most notably Minnesota Viking Korey Stringer, who died August 1, 2001, after developing multi-organ system failure. Players at the high school and college level fell victim in recent years too.

However, you don't need to be an athlete to be felled by heat stroke. Dr. Heine recalls a 78-year-old woman who was transported by ambulance to the emergency department after a neighbor noticed she hadn't been out of her apartment for two days. During that time, the temperature surpassed 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity was stifling. The woman was dehydrated, with a temperature of 104.7 degrees and a decreased blood pressure of 100/70. Fortunately, she was resuscitated with intravenous fluids and then hospitalized.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society believes you're more likely to avoid this scenario and win the battle against the heat when armed with a little knowledge.

Heat stroke is an injury to internal organs caused by an excessively high body temperature. It can damage the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and other organs. Sometimes, as in Stringer's case, the outcome
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