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'It can happen fairly quickly' | Doctors warn of heat exhaustion, heat stroke during surging temps

Those who are most at risk need to be prepared before heading outside.

HOUSTON — The Houston heat is not something to take lightly. For some people, spending just a few minutes outside can become dangerous very quickly.

“Just understand that there are probably folks that we all know that may be at greater risk," Houston Methodist Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Ben Saldana said.

Saldana said it happens every summer -- patients come in with heat-related issues, and sometimes, even heat stroke.

“And it can happen fairly quickly. And it’s always those at risk that are extremes of age, the young and the older and those with chronic illness," Saldana said.

If you get heat cramps, that may be the first sign that something’s wrong. And it could lead to heat exhaustion, where you have dizziness, heavy sweating and nausea. Move to a cool area and drink water if that happens.

If you don’t, it could lead to the more serious, even deadly, heat stroke, where you may become confused, dizzy or even pass out. That’s when you need to go to the hospital immediately.

If not, your blood pressure could drop and electrolytes could become out of balance.

“Because of the very low blood pressures and electrolyte imbalances, you could go into cardiac arrhythmias that could potentially be fatal," Dr. Wafi Momin with UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann said.

Momin said he’s had a few patients who have needed to be hospitalized because they take diuretic medication for their chronic illnesses, and the heat causes them to sweat.

“When you add that to significant exposure to heat and fluid loss, that could actually end up having you go to the hospital with symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and we’ve seen people go into kidney failure because of this," Momin said.

He said that especially for those most at risk, just be prepared before heading outside: Wear light clothes, stay hydrated and avoid the hottest times of the day.

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