Hot festival day could prompt heat exhaustion

Sunscreen and water are two of the most vital items that health care professionals recommend that you use while participating in the annual Nashville Pride Festival.

Last year medics with Vanderbilt LifeFlight Event Medicine treated more than 75 people, with many problems originating from the extreme heat. Temperatures that day reached as high as 95 degrees, along with high humidity. That, combined with the large amount of asphalt surfaces, created an extremely hot day for festive goers.

“We are encouraging participants to take measures against the heat,” said Leigh Sims, EMT-P, manager of Event Medicine for Vanderbilt LifeFlight.

Sims said medics will be on hand again this year, and that Pride Festival officials will provide a cooling misting fan in the first aid tent. Last year medics also treated a large number of blisters and handed out “quite a bit of over-the-counter medications for headaches”.

“We did see several cases of heat exhaustion last year,” Sims said. “So we are encouraging those attending this year to take proper precautions so that they can go and enjoy the festival.”

"Victims of heat exhaustion should know when to call it quits for the day," Sims cautioned.  "It’s often difficult to go back to pre-exhaustion activities, so it’s best to pace yourself so you can enjoy the all that the festival has to offer."

Heat exhaustion, which is caused by dehydration, is indicated by headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea and cool, moist skin. Heat stroke, the most serious heat emergency, is indicated by a body temperature over 105 degrees, irrational behavior, extreme confusion, dry, hot and red skin, and rapid, shallow breathing.

“And don’t forget your sunscreen,” she added.

Sims recommended some of the following precautions that can be taken to prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Avoid intense outdoor activity from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the hottest part of the day.
  • Rest frequently in the shade when outdoors.
  • Wear light-colored and lightweight clothing.
  • Cover up -- wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen of 15 SPF or greater.
  • Drink even if you don't feel thirsty.
  • Know how to respond to heat problems.

If you are feeling light headed or dizzy, please ask for assistance to get to the first aid tent or ask for one of our medics to come and check on you,” Sims said. “It’s important to get someone who may have heat exhaustion to a cool area out of the direct sunlight, keep them wet with cool water or wet towels, and turn a fan on to help cool the body. If the person quickly feels better, it’s likely that no further medical attention is needed.”

But once you've been affected by heat exhaustion, it'll take awhile to recover.

"Victims of heat exhaustion should know when to call it quits for the day," Sims cautioned.  "It’s often difficult to go back to pre-exhaustion activities, so it’s best to pace yourself so you can enjoy the all that the festival has to offer."

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