Health Net Inc. (NYSE:HNT) reminds everyone that it’s important to remember that this standout star (SUN) also is responsible for thousands of deaths annually due to skin cancer and heat-related illnesses.
“Skin cancer awareness has increased a lot in recent years, but I don’t think that people are as well informed about the serious problems that can result from being in the heat,” explains Jonathan Scheff, M.D., chief medical officer for Health Net, Inc.
And that lack of knowledge can be deadly. Scheff cautions, “Heat stroke can result in death, so it’s important to regard it as a medical emergency.” Heat stroke occurs when the perspiration mechanism fails, and the body becomes unable to control its temperature. In fact, heat stroke can send body temperature soaring to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes.
As Scheff points out, “It doesn’t have to be triple digits outside to experience heat stroke. If there’s high humidity, there can be a danger at 75 degrees, particularly if you’re exerting yourself physically.”
Heat stroke warning signs
Heat stroke warning signs, which require immediate medical attention, include:
– extremely high body temperature (above 103? F);
– red, hot, dry skin (no perspiration);
– rapid pulse;
– throbbing headache;
– loss of consciousness.
Other heat-related medical conditions
Although less dangerous than heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps are serious conditions that pose a threat as the weather warms. According to Scheff, “Heat exhaustion most commonly occurs when people perspire heavily because they’ve overexerted themselves and this leads to dehydration.” Common symptoms are: pale, clammy skin; weakness; dizziness; headache; nausea; vomiting; and fainting. Those experiencing heat exhaustion should immediately seek shade, hydrate with non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages, and take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
Heat cramps also are linked to overexertion and most often strike in the arms, legs, and abdomen. Scheff explains that when the body loses salt through profuse perspiration, painful cramps can result. If this happens, Scheff recommends stopping all activity, sitting in a cool place, and drinking clear juice, a sports beverage, or water.
“Prevention, of course, is the best option,” says Scheff, “so you should limit your time in the sun and stay well hydrated.” As a general rule of thumb, drink 16 fluid ounces of water before going out into the heat. Those working in the heat should drink one-half liter of water every half-hour.
Preventing skin cancer
Prevention also is the frontline defense against skin cancer, a disease that strikes 1.2-million Americans annually, according to the Sun Safety Alliance. Even more startling, melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — kills one person every hour. “The biggest mistake that people make is assuming that a sunscreen with a high SPF [sun protection factor] — such as 30 to 45 — only needs to be applied once for full protection,” Scheff notes. Adding, “To be effective, sunscreen should be reapplied every two to three hours, especially if you’ve been sweating or in the water.”
The importance of staving off sunburns can’t be overstated. “A history of severe sunburns,” says Scheff, “unquestionably increases your risk of developing skin cancer.” Additionally, warns the Sun Safety Alliance, one blistering sunburn can double a child’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.
Sun safety tips
“Sun safety really needs to be taken seriously,” observes Scheff. “Fortunately, the precautions that should be taken aren’t difficult to do.” For its part, the Sun Safety Alliance recommends:
– limiting time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.;
– selecting clothing that’s dark and tightly woven;
– wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses;
– avoiding use of tanning beds;
– keeping very young children (six months old or less) out of the sun;
– applying a sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher (30 or higher for children) before going outdoors and reapply often. To achieve adequate UV protection, you should use products that provide broad-spectrum protection, meaning protection against both UVB and UVA rays. For broad-spectrum protection, look for products that provide an SPF of at least 15 and contain Avobenzone (Parsol 1789) or zinc oxide.
– seeking shade whenever possible.
Source: Health Net, USA