Experts discuss dangers of heat exhaustion after scout master’s death

Posted at 5:33 PM, Jun 10, 2013

ST. GEORGE – With temperatures hitting triple digits for much of the week, doctors are warning about the risks of heat exhaustion.

According to a recent University of Montana study, heat stroke causes nearly 1,000 deaths every year, and doctors said with foresight and care those deaths can be preventable.

Emergency Room Doctor Robert Foster of  Intermountain Healthcare said heat exhaustion is hard on the body.

“It just shuts down everything," he said. "It can shut down your brain. It can shut down your kidneys. In older people it can cause heart attacks. It can cause strokes. In babies it can cause heat stroke. So, it is very deadly. I think we just kind of forget.”

The death of a Las Vegas Boy Scout leader over the weekend due to heat exhaustion shows how quickly it can happen. Scout leader Clawson Bowman Junior, 69, and five scouts were hiking in 110-degree weather near the Nevada-Arizona border. The scouts were in the White Rock Canyon Area when they began to suffer from the heat and called 911. The scouts were treated for heat exhaustion.

The University of Montana study also unearthed a misconception regarding heat stroke. Surveys found most people think staying hydrated will do the trick, but Foster said it’s more than that.

“That’s always good, drinking a lot of water, but you’ve got to get out of the heat. You’ve got to get yourself cool,” Foster said.

Clinton mom Tina Simonson found that out first hand. She said her sons battled heat stroke recently and now they’re keenly aware of the many effects extreme heat can have.

“A week ago we went swimming at a neighbor’s house, and the kids got really sick the day after,” Simonson said. "So they’re more than willing to drink the water and take the bathroom breaks because they know what it’s like.”

Major warning signs include muscle aches, headache, nausea, dizziness and weakness. Foster said the best thing to do is get indoors and cool down. But he said if symptoms are intense, get to the hospital.

Intermountain Healthcare offers several other tips on avoiding and treating heat-related illness. Click here for more information.

Foster said that in times of extreme heat, it’s also important to wear sun screen, hats and appropriate clothing to avoid other injuries that can happen during sunny, hot days.