SAN ANTONIO – With a heat index hovering around 105 daily, the National Weather Service is prompting residents to be mindful of the dangers of heat illness, a condition that can turn deadly quickly.
Heat illness occurs when the body no longer processes the amount of heat being forced upon it, resulting in parts of the body losing function, causing brain damage, a very high body temperature and death.
For workers who must be out in the heat all day, like roofing crews, efforts to stay healthy are a matter of life and death.
Julian Garza, 54, has been roofing his entire life. He said when it gets hot, his crews take regular breaks every two hours, drink 80 to 100 bottles of water daily and get off the roof immediately if they experience dizziness.
"If right here it's 104, up there it's 200 or 150, because you've got the heat coming off the roof with the sun's heat beating down. It's coming at you both ways," Garza said. His crews attempt to work as early as possible in the day to avoid the worst of the heat.
Dr. Mike Magoon of the Alamo Heights Emergency Clinic said the first symptoms of heat illness are heaviness in the arms and legs, then lightheadedness.
Magoon, an experienced military emergency room doctor, said when one begins to get heat leg cramps, that's a sign that water intake is not keeping up with dehydration.
"When you get to the point where you stop sweating, and you ought to be sweating, then you are way behind the eight ball," he said. "That means your body has given up on its auto regulation on the ability to dissipate the heat. After that, you may lose so much oxygen to the brain you will begin to suffer brain damage and death."
Magoon said to stay away from sugary sodas and beer.
"You have a diuretic in both, so you think you are drinking. But in reality, you are becoming extra dehydrated," he said.
Magoon said people who are active in the hot weather and only drink plain water are also at risk of sweating out sodium, another pitfall that leads to heat illness.
He said people on antihistamines for allergies will dehydrate faster, as will the very young and the very old.
Magoon recommends mixing water with an electrolyte drink, especially if one will be out in the hot weather regularly this summer.
Athletes who train in the summer shouldn't only rely on plain water or commercial sports drinks. A combination of the two will help the players stay hydrated with the proper amounts of sodium, Magoon said.