Friday, July 30, 2010
This past week in Arizona has reminded us that summer has indeed
arrived. Temperatures are already well above the 100 degree mark until
well after sunset. Living in these conditions pose unique health risks
that require special precautions. The most common health risk is heat
exhaustion that can be characterized by heavy sweating, irritability,
headaches, paleness, nausea, muscle cramps, and fainting. Treatment of
heat exhaustion includes drinking cool NON-alcoholic or caffeine
beverages, finding shade, taking a cool shower or bath, and finding an
air-conditioned environment. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can
lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency
and can be fatal if not treated properly. Symptoms of heat stroke
include red or flushed skin, lack of sweating, headache, nausea,
difficulty breathing, hallucinations, cramping, seizures, and coma. The
lack of sweating indicates severe dehydration where the body can no
longer adequately cool itself and can lead to elevated body temperatures
(hyper-thermia). While waiting for 911 response, the same treatments
can be applied as in heat exhaustion. Additionally, ice packs can be
applied to the armpits, groin, and the back of the neck. Re-hydration
is critical in either condition. Drinking too much water and
electrolytes too quickly, however, can result in severe stomach
cramping, so frequent small sips are recommended.
From a Traditional Chinese Medical perspective, these conditions are
the result of a Yang-based summer-heat or pathogenetic heat invasion.
This heat attack can quickly burn up the Yin and fluids of the body and
lead to an attack of the heart. Acupuncture treatments for either
condition involve using acupuncture points to specifically clear heat.
Bleeding certain points including the jing-well points, ear apex, and
UB40 (back of the knee) is also a common protocol.
Prevention of either condition involves the classic common sense
advice that we've been taught (but often forget) for most of our lives.
These include staying hydrated, find shade, and avoid being outside in
the heat of the day if we can avoid it.
Probably the MOST important prevention that a person can do, however,
is to simply cover their head. A hat.... ANY hat.... that adequately
covers the top of the head can greatly improve our resistance to
heat-related illnesses. From a TCM perspective, most pathogenic
wind-invasions, whether it's hot or cold, enter the body at either Du14
or Du20. From my experience, wind-cold invasions are more likely to
attack Du14, while wind-heat invasions attack Du20. Du14 is located at
the back of the neck between the C7 and T1 vertebrae. Du20, however, is
located at the very top of the head. So, simply covering Du 20 with a
hat is a cheap and effective way to help fight off heat-related
illnesses. This advice applies to EVERYBODY. Regardless whether you
have dark or light skin, have a full mop of hair or are bald.
So, next time you decide to hike in the Arizona sun, bring plenty of
water, and bring 2 hats...one for you, and one for your friend who
insists that he/she is fine and doesn't need one.
Craig Amrine, L.Ac. is licensed acupuncturist and be reached through his website at www.hiddenrhythmacupuncture.com