Hypoglycemia: understand it, prevent it, treat it

Hypoglycemia is the medical name for low blood glucose (low blood sugar)—specifically, a blood glucose level below 4 mmol/L. Frequent or severe hypoglycemia can have a very negative effect on your diabetes management and your overall quality of life, making it important to be able to recognize the warning signs, to have strategies in place for preventing it, and to know how to treat it if it does occur.

Causes

Hypoglycemia may result from a number of factors including:
• not eating on time
• not eating enough
• getting more physical activity than usual
• taking too much medication
• drinking alcoholic beverages

Warning signs

The warning signs of hypoglycemia can vary from person to person, and some people don’t experience any warning signs at all. When warning signs do occur, they may include feeling:
• lightheaded
• shaky
• sweaty
• headachy
• hungry
• nauseated
• nervous, irritable, or anxious
• weak or drowsy
• unable to concentrate
• numbness or tingling in your lips or tongue
• fast heart rate

Very low blood sugar can cause:
• confusion and disorientation
• loss of consciousness
• seizures

Hypoglycemia can happen rapidly. Knowing the signs to watch for will enable you to treat it quickly.

Preventing hypoglycemia

It’s always better to prevent a problem than it is to be faced with the need to treat it, and these tips will help you prevent hypoglycemia:
• Follow the blood glucose monitoring schedule your diabetes care team has created for you. Careful monitoring is critical to making sure your blood sugar level remains within your target range.
• Eat on schedule. Don’t skip meals or snacks.
• Take your diabetes medication or insulin on schedule.
• If you are going to be very physically active, adjust your medication or have additional snacks.
• If you chose to drink alcohol, don’t do it on an empty stomach.
• Keep a log of your low glucose readings so you will be able to identify patterns.

Treating hypoglycemia

Sometimes, even the best efforts to prevent a problem aren’t enough. If you think your blood sugar may be low, check it immediately. If you don’t have access to your meter, treat the symptoms anyway. Treat hypoglycemia by eating or drinking 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as:
• 15 g of glucose in the form of glucose tablets
• 15 mL (1 tablespoon) or 3 packets of sugar dissolved in water
• 15 mL (1 tablespoon) of honey (Do NOT give honey to a child younger than one year of age.)
• 150 mL (2/3cup) of juice or regular (not diet) soft drink
• 6 LifeSavers® candies

Wait 15 minutes, then check your blood sugar again. If it is still low, treat it again with another 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates. Wait another 15 minutes, and then check it again. Keep doing this until your blood glucose is above 4 mmol/L. Once your blood sugar reaches 4 mmol/L, if your next meal is more than an hour away or if you are going to be physically active, have a snack that contains 15 grams of carbohydrate plus a protein source—such as half of a sandwich or cheese and crackers. Be sure to wait at least 40 minutes after your blood sugar reaches at least 5 mmol/L before driving, because your brain may need that long to recover before you can drive safely again.

If your blood sugar remains below 4 mmol/L or if you become sleepy and less alert, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Severe hypoglycemia

Severe hypoglycemia in a conscious person is treated with 20 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates, preferably in the form of glucose tablets. Blood glucose should be retested in 15 minutes and retreated with another 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates if blood glucose remains below 4 mmol/L. Severe hypoglycemia in an unconscious person is treated with an injection of glucagon administered either subcutaneously (under the skin) or intramuscularly (into a muscle). The effectiveness of glucagon will be reduced in people who have consumed more than two standard alcoholic drinks in the previous few hours, in those who have been fasting, and in those who have advanced liver disease. People with diabetes should wear medical identification jewelry. That way, if they lose consciousness and are unable to speak for themselves, emergency responders will know what to look for and what to do.

Hypoglycemia in a child

Even mild symptoms in a child require immediate attention. In a child under six years of age who has symptoms, a blood glucose level below 6 mmol/L with symptoms is enough to trigger treatment. In a child at least six years old who has symptoms, a blood glucose level less than 4 mmol/L is enough for treatment.

Treatment will depend on the child’s weight.
• A child weighing less than 15 kg (33 lbs.) should be given 5 grams of carbohydrates.
• A child weighing between 15 and 30 kg (33 to 66 lbs.) should be given 10 grams of carbohydrates.
• A child weighing more than 30 kg (66 lbs.) should be given 15 grams of carbohydrates, the same as an adult.

5 grams of carbohydrate:
• 11/2 oz. (45 mL) of fruit juice
• 1/2 cup (125 mL) of white milk
• 1/4 cup (60 mL) of chocolate milk
• 1/4 cup (60 mL) of regular (not diet) pop
• 1-11/2 teaspoons (4-6 g) of jelly or jam

10 grams of carbohydrate:
• 3 oz. (90 mL) of fruit juice
• 3/4 cup (185 mL) of white milk
• 1/3 cup (80 mL) of chocolate milk
• 1/4 cup (60 mL) of regular (not diet) pop
• 2-3 teaspoons (8-12 g) of jelly or jam

Tips for family, friends, and coworkers

If you have diabetes, it is important that the people around you know what to do if your blood sugar drops too low. These tips will help:

If you are unconscious:
• The person should prepare a shot of glucagon and administer the shot following the instructions that came with the medication.
• As soon as the injection has been administered, the person should call 911 or your local emergency number.

If you are conscious and able to swallow:
• The person should lift your head and give you ½ teaspoon (7.5 mL) of water to swallow.

If you swallow the water without coughing or choking:
• The person should give you 15 grams of glucose tablets or 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates, then wait 15 minutes and see if you need help testing your blood glucose level.
• If you are feeling better but your blood glucose is still low or you still have symptoms, the person should give you another 15 grams of glucose tablets or fast-acting carbohydrates then wait with you for another 15 minutes until you test your blood glucose again.
• If you become sleepy or lethargic, the person should call 911 or your local emergency number immediately and stay with you until help arrives.

If you cough or choke on the water:
• The person should turn you on your side and make sure your airway isn’t blocked.
• Then the person should prepare a shot of glucagon and administer the shot following the instructions that came with the medication.
• As soon as the injection has been administered, the person should call 911 or your local emergency number.
• If you are unconscious and emergency help hasn’t arrived within five minutes, the person should give you another glucagon shot and stay with you until the emergency help arrives.

Diabetes & Covid-19

COVID-19 is a virus that affects the respiratory system (the system that enables us to breathe). People with diabetes are not more likely than others to catch the COVID-19 virus, but if they do catch it, they are more likely to have a severe form of the infection and to suffer more complications. This makes it particularly important for people with diabetes to do everything they can to protect themselves from this virus. Here are some things you can do to help protect yourself.

• Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Regularly clean commonly used surfaces and devices you touch or handle.
• Don’t make unnecessary trips away from home.
• If you do have to leave your home, try to stay at least 2 metres away from anyone else.
• Avoid contact with people who appear to be sick with a respiratory illness.
• Watch carefully to see if you develop any symptoms.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 to watch for include fever, tiredness, dry cough, aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and diarrhea. However, some people who become infected with the virus never develop symptoms. If you do develop any of the symptoms, continue following your diabetes management plan and call your doctor to see whether you should make an appointment to go in for a checkup and for advice on how to treat your symptoms. Research has shown that insulin and other treatments for blood sugar control do not increase the risk of severe COVID-19, and you should continue to take them. In fact, you should not make any changes to your diabetes management plan without checking first with your doctor. It is always better to be prepared than to be surprised by something unexpected. For people with diabetes, this includes having a sick day management plan in place before you get sick.

The article “Sick Day Management” below will help you prepare for COVID-19 or any other illness you may develop.

Sick Day Management

Even a minor illness can cause serious problems for people with diabetes. When we are sick, our body reacts by releasing hormones to fight infection, but this can raise blood glucose (blood sugar) levels and make it more difficult for insulin to lower blood glucose. A little planning can reduce the likelihood of developing dangerously high blood glucose levels if you get sick.

Plan ahead
While you are still healthy, you should talk to your doctor or diabetes care team to create a sick day management plan. Your plan should include your target blood glucose goal during an illness, how often to test your blood glucose and ketone levels, how your diabetes medication schedule or insulin might have to be adjusted, if you should stop taking any other medications, and what warning signs indicate it’s time to contact a doctor. Make sure you keep your sick day management plan where it will be handy when you need it. Prepare a sick day kit that includes:
• glucose tablets to treat hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
• sugar-free beverages
• a thermometer
• enough blood glucose testing strips
• a ketone meter and strips

Managing your blood sugar
If you are on insulin, continue taking it even if you are vomiting or have trouble eating or drinking. If you are managing your diabetes with medications or if you are taking medicines for other conditions, you may need to stop taking them if you are at risk of becoming dehydrated as a result of vomiting or diarrhea.

Speak with your doctor if you take any of these types of medicines to make sure you know what to do if you get sick:
• blood pressure medications
• diuretics (“water pills”)
• nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
• pain medicines
• sulfonylureas

Be careful about taking over-the-counter medicines. For example, if you have a cough or cold and you are looking for relief from your symptoms, you should be aware that some products contain sugar. Ask your London Drugs pharmacist for assistance in choosing a product that will help you feel better without affecting your blood glucose control.

Stay hydrated

If you are vomiting, have diarrhea, have a fever, or are exposed to excessive heat, you are at risk of dehydration. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids that contain minimal or no sugar. Try to drink at least one cup (250 mL/8 oz.) of sugar-free fluids periodically for a total of at least nine cups (2.2L/72 oz.) daily to prevent dehydration. Good choices of fluids include water, clear soup or broth, herbal tea, and caffeine-free diet pop (such as diet ginger ale). Limit the amount of caffeine-containing beverages you drink (e.g., coffee, some teas, and some types of carbonated soft drinks), because caffeine makes dehydration worse. You may want to consider electrolyte replacement solutions.

Eating while you are sick

If you can, try to stick with your meal plan. If you can’t eat the foods you usually eat, try to consume light foods or fluids that contain 15 grams of carbohydrates every hour. Options include:
• 1 slice of bread
• 7 soda crackers
• 1 medium-size piece of fruit
• 1 twin popsicle
• ¹/2 cup (125 mL) of unsweetened applesauce
• ¹/2 cup (125 mL) of 100% fruit juice
• 2/3 cup (165 mL) juice
• ¹/2 cup (125 mL) regular Jell-O®
• 2/3 cup (165 mL) regular soft drink that does not contain caffeine
• ¼ cup (60 mL) regular pudding or ½ cup (125 mL) sugar-free pudding

If you are not vomiting and don’t have diarrhea, you may also want to try:
• 1 cup (250 mL) of milk
• ¹/2 cup (125 mL) of flavoured yogurt
• ¹/2 cup (125 mL) of ice cream

If you are eating less than normal and the symptoms last for more than 24 hours, you may need to temporarily stop taking some medications, including certain diabetes pills, blood pressure and heart medications, and anti-inflammatory pain medicines, and you may need to stop taking all diuretics (water pills). Check with your healthcare professional before you get sick to find out if any of your medications should be stopped, and incorporate this into your sick day management plan.

Test, test, test
Your sick day management plan should include instructions for what tests you should perform and how often to do them, but the following are some general guidelines to consider:
• Check your blood glucose at least every two to four hours. If it is rising quickly, check it more often, even throughout the night.
• If you take insulin, test your blood or urine for ketones.
• If your blood glucose tests above 16 mmol/L twice in a row, test your blood or urine for ketones every four hours.
• Weigh yourself and check your temperature, breathing rate, and pulse frequently.

When to seek help
There are some warning signs that point to a more serious problem. You should contact your healthcare provider if:
• You are sick for more than 24 hours and aren’t getting better or if you start to feel worse
• You can’t drink enough liquids
• You take any medicines and aren’t sure if you should change your dosage or stop taking them when you are sick
• You take insulin and aren’t sure if or how you should change your dosage
• You have been told to check your ketones and they are moderate to high
• You are unable to keep your blood glucose level above 4 mmol/L

If you can’t reach your healthcare provider and are not getting better, consider going to the emergency
department of your local hospital.

Read all other articles in our Living with Diabetes Magazine here.

3 Ways to Care for your Face Mask

As face masks become an essential part of our daily routines, many have turned to reusable masks to be more cost effective and environmentally conscious. With that being said, it’s important to know how to take care of them, so that they can last longer and continue to help prevent the spread of germs. Keep reading below to learn tips on washing, drying and storing your face masks.

Washing your mask

The most important thing is to wash your face mask after every use, and investing in multiple masks makes it easy to have a fresh one ready at any time. An easy way to clean your used masks is to include it with your regular laundry load. It’s a good idea to use a cloth or mesh bag to avoid the ear loops from getting tangled with other clothes or garments. As well, make sure you use the warmest water temperature setting possible. If you choose to wash by hand, simply fill a bucket with hot water with detergent. Let your mask soak for 5 minutes, then use your hands to lather it up before rinsing it well.  TIP: Your regular detergent works fine but if you are sensitive to smells, you may want to switch to an unscented one!

Drying your mask

After washing, lay your mask flat to dry to allow it to maintain its shape. If possible, place it in a spot in direct sunlight. You can use a clothes hanger and clothes pins to hang multiple masks on to dry. TIP: Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling your face masks.

Storing your mask

When your face mask is not in use, store it in a cool, dry place. If you’re more of the forgetful type, try using hooks to hang your mask by the door so it is always in plain sight before you head out. When you remove your mask after use, place it in a paper lunch bag or plastic ziploc bag. If you don’t like the idea of using single use paper or plastic, you can always get yourself a Stasher bag. This reusable silicone bag comes in a variety of colours and is very easy to clean and sterilize!

Mask Filters

Face mask filters are much more delicate than reusable masks. The PM2.5 masks filters that you can find at London Drugs are not washable. If you are using them, remove it before washing your face mask. After your mask has completely dried, replace the PM2.5 filter with a new one after each use.

If you are choosing to go with reusable face masks, we hope you have found the tips above helpful. Don’t forget, you may want to have more than one reusable mask so you can rotate them during the week, ensuring you will always have a fresh one one hand! You can find our full selection of face masks, filters and personal protection equipment online here.

Preparing for Flu Season

Flu season is approaching, and that means many Canadians will find themselves coughing, sneezing, and dealing with other unpleasant symptoms. But are those symptoms due to a cold, influenza (“the flu”), or COVID-19, the newest respiratory virus to challenge our health? Here’s a guide to what you need to know about these illnesses.

Colds

Everyone gets a cold occasionally. A cold usually lasts a week or two, and the symptoms generally develop slowly over a couple of days. The symptoms include sneezing, stuffy nose, and sore throat, minor aches, and mild to moderate chest discomfort and cough. Colds don’t usually lead to serious health problems such as pneumonia, but occasionally complications can develop, including infections in the throat, ears, or sinuses. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce your risk of catching a cold:
• Wash your hands often.
• Keep your hands away from your face and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent transferring the virus into your body.
• As much as possible, stay away from people who appear to be sick.
• Keep your immune system strong by eating a healthy diet and being physically active.
• Do not smoke. Smoking makes it more likely that you will catch a cold, and it makes the cold harder to get rid of.

There is no cure for a cold. Antibiotics will not help, because they fight bacteria but have no effect on viruses, and colds are caused by viruses. What you can do for relief is to treat the symptoms.

Here are some helpful tips:

• Drink plenty of fluids to help soothe a sore throat and thin the mucus in your nose and lungs. Hot fluids such as tea and broth can be especially helpful in relieving a stuffy nose.
• Take hot showers and use a humidifier in your bedroom to relieve a stuffy nose.
Saline drops may help drain thick or dried mucus.
• A dab of petroleum jelly can ease the discomfort of a red, raw nose.

If you decide to try cough and cold medicines, there are some things you need to know. These medications should not be given to children under six years of age. They won’t work on young children, and they may be harmful. For children age six and over, follow the instructions on the package carefully. Make sure you understand what the proper dose is and how often the dosing can be repeated. Whether these drugs are given to a child or an adult, if more than one is used, make sure they don’t contain any of the same ingredients, because you could risk getting an overdose of some ingredients by combining the recommended doses of several products.

Flu

Unlike colds, flu symptoms develop suddenly. In addition to cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle or body aches, common flu symptoms include fever, chills, headache, and fatigue. The flu is more serious than a cold, and it can lead to pneumonia and worsening of some existing conditions such as asthma. And even though the flu is caused by a virus, it can lead to bacterial infections. The best way to avoid catching the flu is to get vaccinated—either by getting a flu shot or by getting the nasal spray vaccine. In general, the flu vaccine is recommended for everyone age six months and older; however, there are some people who should not receive the vaccine. Your healthcare provider is in the best position to advise you on the vaccine and whether the shot or the nasal spray would be best for you. The effectiveness of the vaccine varies from year to year, depending on how closely the vaccine matches the particular flu virus that is circulating each year. Even if you do catch the flu after being vaccinated, it is likely that your symptoms will be milder and that your flu won’t last as long.

One thing that is important to understand is that the flu vaccine cannot cause the flu. The same good health habits that will help keep you from catching a cold will also help prevent the flu. People who are at high risk of flu complications should check with their doctor as soon as they think they may be experiencing flu symptoms. People in this category include young children, adults age 65 and older, pregnant women, and those with certain chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma.
If you do get the flu, antiviral drugs may provide a helpful treatment. Antiviral medications can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by a day or two. They can also help prevent serious complications.

COVID-19

COVID-19 is adding another dimension to this year’s flu season. This is a new virus, and there is still much we don’t know about it. What we do know is that the symptoms vary from person to person, and some people who are infected with the virus experience no symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, they may include any of the following:
• Abdominal pain
• Chills
• Cough
• Diarrhea
• Fatigue or weakness
• Feeling feverish
• Feeling very unwell
• Headache
• Loss of the sense of smell or taste
• Muscle or body aches
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
• Vomiting

It may take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear after exposure to the virus, and the virus can be spread even by people who have no symptoms.

The most common ways the virus spreads are through:
• Inhaling the virus in respiratory droplets spread by a cough or sneeze
• Touching something that the droplets have landed on and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth before washing your hands
• Personal contact, such as by hugging someone or shaking hands

You can reduce your chances of catching the virus by taking some basic precautions:
• Avoid crowded places, especially indoor areas with poor ventilation
• Avoid non-essential trips out of your home
• Do not gather in groups
• Stay at least 2 metres away from other people
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
• Wear a mask or face covering when out in public

If you become ill and think you may have COVID-19, isolate yourself at home for 14 days to avoid spreading the virus to others. If you live with other people, stay at least 2 metres apart at all times. Contact your healthcare provider for advice on how to relieve the symptoms. You can access your province’s self-assessment tool at https://ca.thrive.health/covid19/en.

 

Flu-shot and Influenza season update from Chris Chiew, General Manager of Pharmacy

To our valued customers,

We’d like to share with you an update from Chris Chiew, General Manager of Pharmacy, on the flu shot and upcoming influenza season, including the safety measures we have taken at London Drugs to help keep you safe while in our stores.

Transcript:

Hello, I’m Chris Chiew, General Manager of Pharmacy and member of the executive committee, at London Drugs.

The unique circumstances surrounding the approaching influenza season have many of our customers and patients asking important questions about how best to protect their families, neighbours and vulnerable members of the community from the double threat of common flu strains and COVID-19. Questions such as, how can we keep our schools and public spaces safe?

With all the uncertainty, one thing is certain: the flu shot is safe, and it’s the most effective tool we have in protecting against influenza, preventing its’ spread and ultimately save lives.

And because the flu presents an added challenge for frontline healthcare workers, as well as the most vulnerable members of the community, just by getting a flu shot, you’ll be doing your part – taking care of your own health and the health of your community.

Flu shots are especially important for the elderly and young children, who are more susceptible to flu-related complications that can lead to serious health problems or even death. But it’s important to remember that even healthy individuals should get a flu shot because the higher the rate of vaccination, the greater the protection necessary for our most vulnerable individuals. This is also known as herd immunity.

To reinforce this important message, London Drugs is providing added incentive to get immunized. For every flu shot administered at any of our pharmacies, a lifesaving vaccine will be donated to UNICEF Canada to vaccinate children in a developing country against tetanus, polio or measles.

You are likely aware, at London Drugs we’ve introduced a multitude of measures to help keep you safe while in our stores; from decals on the floor so you know where to stand, to plexi-glass barriers between you and our cashiers and pharmacy team, rigorous constant cleaning and sanitation, as well as personal protective equipment and masks for all our staff and pharmacists.

Beyond getting your flu shot, handwashing, social distancing and mask-wearing will continue to be important for everyone heading into flu season and for the foreseeable future. We want to commend those who have been diligent about protecting themselves by taking these precautions and we urge everyone to continue to act responsibly in this way when they visit our pharmacy and other public areas.

Particularly as flu season approaches, we are urging anyone experiencing flu-like or respiratory symptoms to stay home. Even mildly ill patients should not visit the pharmacy. Our pharmacists are available by phone to provide guidance around symptom management. Most over-the-counter medicinal products can be ordered online at LondonDrugs.com to be delivered right to your door.

Flu and coronavirus share common symptoms but there’s one big difference: a vaccine exists to prevent the flu – which is why it is more important than ever to get yours this year.

From our London Drugs family to yours,
Stay well and stay safe.

 

 

 

Compression Socks

While we don’t presently know when longhaul air travel will be permitted again, it’s wise to be prepared. After long periods of remaining still, especially in a seated position if you’re working from home, the deeper veins of the legs can become compressed, narrowed, or blocked. This makes it difficult for blood to travel back to the heart.

The formation of a blood clot within a deep vein results in partial or complete blockage of blood flow in the vein. This is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and can be fatal if a clot forms, breaks away, and travels to the lungs, causing pulmonary embolism. Any type of travel lasting four or more hours increases your chance of developing a deadly blood clot, whether or not you have risk factors. Risk factors that add to the chance of developing DVT include the following:

  • Being over 50 (risk increases with age).
  • Previously experiencing DVT. Roughly 30 per cent of those experiencing the condition will do so again.
  • You’re pregnant, using hormone therapy, or taking birth control pills. These conditions cause estrogen levels to rise, and estrogen increases the risk of blood clots. During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume is also significantly increased, putting further pressure on her circulatory system.
  • You have a family history of DVT. If a parent or sibling has the condition, your risk is higher.
  • You are overweight. The risk for DVT rises with increased body mass index (BMI).
  • You smoke. Smoking affects blood clotting and circulation, which can increase your risk of DVT.
  • You have another health condition that is linked to increased risk. These include heart disease, lung disease, inflammatory bowel disease, some forms of cancer and their treatment.

Compression socks can provide relief to those sitting for long periods of time, especially if you’re working from home.

How compression socks help

Compression socks are elasticized and therefore put pressure on the veins, helping to improve the flow of blood back to the heart. Wearing compression socks during travel may reduce the risk of developing deadly blood clots while also increasing comfort by reducing swelling and leg aches and pain.

Preventing Deep Vein Thrombosis

  • Stay hydrated, avoiding alcohol before and during travel.
  •  If you’re traveling long distances by car, stop to stretch your legs and move around. If you can’t make time for a break while traveling in a car, tense your calf and thigh muscles several times, point your toes and twist your feet in circles clockwise, then anti-clockwise while keeping your legs still. Repeat this every 20 minutes or so.
  • Avoid wearing constricting clothes that can impede blood flow.
  • Don’t cross your legs as this can also impede circulation.
  • If you are taking blood thinners (anticoagulants) be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations on their use.

Wearing compression socks while running can help prevent leg fatigue.

Other benefits of compression socks

The benefits of wearing compression socks are not limited to sitting still for long periods while traveling. Today’s styles are fun to wear, while helping prevent leg fatigue when walking, hiking, or performing athletic activities.

Compression socks also provide relief for those standing on their feet for long periods, or sitting at their desks and forgetting to get up and walk around every hour. (They don’t replace the health benefits of intermittent activity, but provide a little insurance that your legs and ankles won’t become swollen or achy as a result of the occasional memory slip.) You can find compression socks at London Drugs in store and online.

Read other articles in our Spring-Summer 2020 volume of our Bettercare magazine here.

 

Heatstroke & Dehydration

Heatstroke, sometimes called sunstroke, is a life-threatening condition that usually results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, and/or over-exertion in hot weather. Often accompanying—or resulting from—dehydration, heatstroke signals the failure of the body’s ability to control its temperature, allowing its core to reach 40 degrees Celcius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher. The medical term for heatstroke is hyperthermia.

A person with heatstroke requires immediate emergency treatment as, untreated, the extreme body heat can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. Existing asthma, emphysema, and other lung conditions can also be worsened by heat. The damage intensifies the longer medical treatment is delayed, increasing the risk of serious complications or death.

Symptoms of Heatstroke

Symptoms of heatstroke include the following:

  • A throbbing headache
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness, light-headedness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Inability to sweat, despite the heat
  • Rapid breathing, often shallow
  • Racing heart rate
  • Muscle weakness and/or cramps
  • Confusion, slurred speech, agitation, seizures, staggering, or coma

Act Fast

If you suspect someone has heatstroke (or you are experiencing any of these symptoms and are alone), you must act fast, as a delay could be fatal. Immediately call 911 or drive the person to a hospital if one is close by. While waiting, carry or steer the person to a cooler area, under a tree if outdoors, or into a cooler building. Remove unnecessary clothing and cool the body any way you can, using cold compresses (for example a towel dipped in seawater). If you have access to a house where there is a shower or bath, or a garden hose if unable to gain access, run cold water over the person or fill the tub with cold water and immerse them. If available, place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person’s head, neck, back, armpits and groin. (These areas have many superficial blood vessels which will help to cool the body.) Never use ice packs to cool a child, senior, or person with an existing medical condition unless advised to do so by a medical professional. It is vital that you attempt to cool a person suffering from heatstroke any way you can until medical help arrives.

Causes & Risk Factors

Although heatstroke is usually caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures, or over-exertion in hot weather, certain behaviours can increase risk. These include failure to wear appropriate clothing (light clothing that covers the shoulders and a wide-brimmed hat), consuming alcohol, and not drinking enough water to replenish that lost through sweating.

People at greater risk of developing heatstroke include babies and young children, and elderly people. Babies and young children have an underdeveloped central nervous system (CNS) and the elderly often experience deterioration of the CNS­—making it difficult for both groups to adapt to extremes of temperature. Elderly people who live in hot apartments without air conditioning are at high risk for heatstroke.

While most people recognize that babies, children and animals should never be left in a car (even for a brief period with the windows cracked), sometimes the temptation proves greater than common sense. Never, ever leave a person or animal locked in a car in warm weather. The temperature in a car can rise 7 degrees C (over 20 degrees F) in just ten minutes.

Certain medications can also increase a person’s risk for heatstroke. These include diuretics, which cause water to be lost from the body; vasocontrictors, which narrow the blood vessels; beta blockers, which regulate blood pressure by blocking adrenalin; and tranquillizers or anticonvulsives, which may inhibit the perception of there being anything amiss.

Finally, be sure to drink lots of water and take regular breaks in the shade if you are engaged in physical activity during hot weather.

Dehydration

Close to three-quarters of the human body consists of water. For the average adult, this amounts to 40 litres. Every day, we breathe and sweat close to three litres of this water away, and lose another 1.5 litres to urination.

Many of us spend much of the time in a state of mild dehydration due to consuming too many diuretic drinks like colas, tea and coffee. Although this has the effect of slowing us down, in hot weather, water loss through sweating is accelerated, resulting in severe dehydration. This is a serious condition that requires medical attention.

Within the body, water serves a number of important functions including facilitating the function of body cells, supporting digestion and excretion, the circulation of blood and lymph, and maintenance of body temperature. Without adequate water, vital body functions shut down, which is why people can live a lot longer without food than without water.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Signs of being dehydrated include the following:

  • Nausea and weakness
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Headache and/or leg cramps
  • Increased heart rate, palpitations
  • Reduced urinary output, bright yellow urine
  • Dry mouth and tongue

Immediate medical attention is required if you, or another person, are experiencing a fever over 39 degrees C (103 degrees F); have difficulty breathing; are fainting or having seizures; have chest or abdominal pain, or have had little or no urinary output in the past 12 hours.

Ensuring you drink enough water throughout the day is very important, particularly during warmer weather, and always before and during physical activity. Remember that alcohol accelerates dehydration, and drink two glasses of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed.

As with heatstroke, seniors and children are more likely to become dehydrated as they may not experience the sensation of thirst as obviously as younger adults. This is particularly true if they have diarrhea and/or are vomiting.

The solution for mild to moderate dehydration is to drink more water, and/or an electrolyte formula such as Hydralyte®.(Water alone will not replace the electrolytes lost through sweat.) Juice is not a good idea when diarrhea is present as it can worsen the condition.

Read other articles in our Spring-Summer 2020 volume of our Bettercare magazine here.

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