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Feeling Ostomistic
Thursday, December 14 2017

NB: I am not a doctor or nurse, I am sharing information through my own experiences and also that of various credible sites online. The heat and how it may affect you can differ based on personal health issues, so please do speak to a professional regarding how to be safe in Summer based on your own needs. I am sharing the advice I have found and learned in the hopes it may help you to have a better awareness of how to prepare and endure the heatwave.

Here in Australia, we are 14 days into our Summer. We had a fairly non-existent Winter where we live near in northern NSW, and it honestly felt like a mild Summer. I don't recall having to wear a jumper at all and some nights we needed the air conditioning on. But temps were always around 30'c, it was so dry and warm that our grass and plants were rather dead looking - thankfully, after a lot of water and work, the lawn and garden are thriving.

But it did make me worry about the sort of heats and Summer to prepare for, and if going off the predictions for this weekend - I had a right to worry.

So this weekend, particularly Sunday and Monday, most of Australia will be experiencing temperatures ranging between 35'c to over 45'c, we are told this could be the first of many extreme heatwaves we'll need to prepare for this Summer.


Image from Higgins Storm Chasing, providing a visual of just how much of Australia is to be affected

..... 14 days in to December, this is going to be a long hot Summer!

Part 1: Knowing your risk and what to do

I know you're probably thinking, "big deal just go to the beach, no biggie" - well it actually is a big deal, especially to those vulnerable in the community which includes:
The homeless
The elderly
Children
Pregnant women or breastfeeding women
Those who are sick, including those who have health conditions such as Diabetes, lung disease, breathing issues, asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure or who take medications that make them vulnerable
☀ Those with conditions that affect sweating
☀ People with cancer
Those with an ostomy
Those who work outdoors or in factories or hot working environments
Athletes or people who exercise vigorously in the heat
Those who are obese, overweight or aren't very mobile
☀ Those with an acute illness such as an infection, fever, or gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and/or vomiting)
☀ Those who live alone or don't have much social support
☀ Those who enjoy the outdoors including gardening
☀ Those with Mental health issues or dementia
☀ Those who drink alcohol or use drugs
Not to forget our furry friends too!

During heatwaves you can be at risk of heat related illnesses such as heat stroke, dehydration, overheating or hyperthermia, heat cramps. Heat can also worsen health conditions too. During this time the extreme heatwaves can attribute to bushfires or power outages (blackouts) too, so it is important to be prepared.

Summer and heat realated health issues and illnesses need to be taken seriously as it can lead to deaths, heart attacks, strokes and more.

How does having an ostomy put me at risk during a heatwave?
If you're like me and have an ostomy (or have had bowel surgeries before) you could be at a higher risk of dehydration and feeling vulnerable to heat related illnesses. This is to do with the loss of bowel and without your large bowel your body might not be reabsorbing essential vitamins and minerals such as electrolytes. This is why doctors and stoma nurses suggest replenishing your electolytes to avoid dehydration. So it is essential at the best of times to monitor and replenish your minerals and stay hydrated.

Then add in sweating and extreme heat to the mix and you're more susceptible to becoming dehydrated and suffering due to the heat. Aside from drinking plenty of fluids, also drink electrolyte drinks such as sports drinks or even icypoles filled with all of your delicious minerals and vitamins. Be sure to ask your stoma nurse or dietician what else you can do to help.

With the dehydration issues aside (I will share signs to look out for below) heat can also affect your stoma, such as: by your bag not adhering to your skin properly, using tapes/boomerangs these can help to secure your bags; you might get a heat rash, I know in Summer I get a heat rash where my bag sits against my stomach, I find wearing stoma covers helps with the irritation; Your output might be more watery due to dehydration, so have some marshmallows or gastro stop/immodium to thicken your output. Just remember your spare stoma kit and supplies if you do go out, just incase you happen to have a leak.

It is important to also keep in mind (during the heatwave) that if you are outdoors, doing any strenuous activities such as sports or gardening with an ostomy, you are at risk of heat cramps too. I will explain more about heat cramps below, but essentially due to excessive sweating the body loses water and salts (electrolytes) and when the salts in the muscles get really low these cause cramps. If your electrolyte levels are at risk of being low consider avoiding activities that might put you at risk of heat cramps, at least until you are rehydrated and the weather is as normal as it will be during Summer.

So what is dehydration and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, when the weather is very hot, the body has to work very hard and produce a lot of sweat to keep itself cool. During extreme heatwaves, our bodies sweat a lot, which can lead to dehydration if we aren't careful. Mild to moderate dehydration makes the heart work faster and leads to reduced fluid available for sweating.

NSW health says the symptoms/signs of dehydration to look out for are:
Dizziness and tiredness
Irritability
Thirst
Bright or dark yellow urine
Loss of appetite
Fainting

So what should you do if you or a loved one are dehydrated? NSW health offers this advice:
☀ Drink plenty of water or diluted fruit juice (1 part juice in 4 parts water) and avoid tea, coffee or alcohol
☀ Move somewhere cool, ideally air-conditioned
☀ If possible use a spray bottle with water to cool yourself down
☀ If you start to feel unwell, seek medical advice

So what are heat cramps and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, "Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity (e.g. sport or gardening). The sweating causes the body to lose salt and water. The low salt levels in the muscles may be the cause of heat cramps and they can be a symptom of heat exhaustion".

NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
 Muscle Pains
Muscle Spasms

So what should you do if you or a loved one are suffering with heat cramps? NSW health offers this advice: 
☀ Stop all activity and lie in a cool space, legs slightly raised
☀ Drink water or diluted fruit juice (1 part juice in 4 parts water)
☀ Have a cool shower or bath
☀ Massage your limbs to ease spasms, apply cool packs
☀ Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside (exertion may lead to heat exhaustion/heat stroke)
☀ Seek medical advice if there is no improvement

So what is heat exhaustion and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, "Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can turn into heat stroke."

NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
 Heavy sweating (cool and moist skin)
☀ Pale skin
☀ Fast and weak pulse rate
☀ Shallow and fast breathing
☀ Muscle weakness or cramps
☀ Tiredness and dizziness
☀ Headache
☀ Nausea or vomiting
☀ Fainting

What to do -FIRST AID- according to NSW health:
 Move to a cool place, ideally air-conditioned and lie down
☀ Remove excess clothing
☀ Take small sips of cool fluids
☀ Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath
☀ Put cool packs under armpits, on the groin, or on the back of the neck to reduce body heat
☀ If symptoms worsen or if there is no improvement, seek urgent medical advice and call an ambulance if necessary

So what is heat stroke and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, "Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and occurs when the body temperature rises above 40.5°C. Immediate first aid is very important, aim to lower body temperature as quickly as possible."

NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
 Heavy sweating (cool and moist skin)
☀ Sudden rise in body temperature
☀ Red, hot and dry skin (sweating has stopped)
☀ Dry swollen tongue
☀ Rapid pulse
☀ Rapid shallow breathing
☀ Intense thirst
☀ Headache
☀ Nausea or vomiting
☀ Dizziness or confusion
☀ Poor coordination or slurred speech
☀ Aggressive or bizarre behaviour
☀ Loss of consciousness, seizures or coma

What to do -FIRST AID- according to NSW health:
 Immediately call 000 and ask for an ambulance
☀ Get the person into the shade, lay them down, and keep them as still as possible
☀ Give small sips of cool fluids if conscious and able to drink
☀ Bring their temperature down using any method available (sponging with cool water, cool shower, spraying with cool water from a garden hose or soaking clothes with cool water)
☀ Put cool packs under armpits, on the groin, or on the back of the neck to reduce body heat
☀ Do not give aspirin or paracetamol; they do not help and may be harmful
☀ If unconscious, lay the person on their side (recovery position) and check they can breathe properly
☀ Perform CPR if needed

I know that this is a long and comprehensive guide on the signs and symptoms pertaining to heat related illnesses and what to do in terms of First Aid, in the next post (part 2) I will talk about being prepared and tips for enduring the heatwave.

Again, I am no health professional, I have only done 2 years of Nursing, but I just wanted to put as much information out there from reliable sources to help you be more informed when it comes to the heat and Summer... especially with an ostomy or any health issue, which can make your risk heightened. Please seek medical attention and don't delay, also remember to slip slop slap!

Please be safe and be mindful of how your medications can affect you with the heat, speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you are worried.

To read Part 2, click here

 

Posted by: Talya AT 08:15 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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~  Living with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis - Effects of FAP  ~

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Talya Goding - Feeling Ostomistic   talya@feelingostomistic.com.au  |  0447 426 860

Thank you for stopping by Feeling Ostomistic. It has taken a lot of courage to share my story and I ask that you show me and my site/blog respect and courtesy. Views expressed in this blog are my own and I am not a nurse or a doctor. If you need medical advice please seek your medical practitioner.

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