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Doc Talk: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Doc Talk: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

By Dr. Nathan Levanger, DO

Outdoor adventure season is in full swing here in the valley. Whether it’s a day trip to the Wind Cave up Darby Canyon or an overnight camp-out in the Alaska Basin, our options are seemingly endless when it comes to hitting the trails.

Our high elevation, combined with long sunny days and stretches of temperatures in the 70s, 80s and 90s can pose some risk for unprepared adventure seekers.

Regardless if you plan to go for an hour or a day, it’s important to make a few key preparations.

First, always bring water on your trips. In warm months, hikers/bikers/climbers/runners should drink approximately one gallon of water per day, but that can vary based on your individual needs. In direct sunlight and with physical exertion, your fluid/electrolyte loss can happen faster than under cooler conditions. Sweat evaporates instantly in dry climates like ours, so it’s important to pay attention to any signs your body might need hydration. If hiking with children, pay attention to the water in their water bottles to make sure they are drinking enough and at an appropriate frequency. Ditto for dogs.  Don’t plan on finding sufficient watering holes for dogs to lap up; bring water for the pooches and remember that dogs are exerting energy while wearing fur coats. Also be aware that dogs may not stop to drink water at a creek or pond if their human partner is bike riding or running at a steady pace. You may have to stop and relax before your dog feels that he can take a break and lap up some water.

Second, dress in layers and loose-fitting, lightweight clothing to avoid heat exhaustion. Seek out shaded areas when hiking, and avoid sunburns. Also, if you are taking any medications, ask your doctor whether the medications could make you more susceptible to heat exhaustion or sunburn.

Third, bring a friend or family member along for the trip and avoid strenuous activity in the middle of the day, when the sun and heat are at their highest points.

Generally, by the time you are thirsty, you’re already somewhat dehydrated. To avoid this, drink 1/2 to 1 quart of water or electrolyte drink for every hour you hike.

Although most instances of dehydration are mild or moderate and can be easily resolved by drinking fluids, severe dehydration can also occur.  Signs of a serious problem include little or no urination, extreme dry mouth and skin, confusion, rapid heart-beat and unconsciousness.  Severe dehydration is a medical emergency.

Like any good Scout, you need to be prepared.  Water, sunscreen, good shoes, weather outlooks, and good directions should form the basis of every summer outing.

Dr. Nathan Levanger is a family practice physician offering patient care at Driggs Health Clinic located in Driggs Idaho.

This article originally appeared in the Teton Valley News.

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Hospital offers free service to help identify enterovirus

If you’re concerned that your child may be infected with enterovirus D68, Teton Valley Hospital is now offering free pulse-oximetry testing.

Pulse-oximetry tests can show whether or not an individual is able to breathe sufficient amounts of oxygen.  A key symptom of enterovirus D68 is a compromised respiratory system. Some children who contract this virus will require hospitalization or emergency care to support their oxygen intake.  Children who have asthma or allergies are particularly at risk.

Teton Valley Hospital wants to help identify enterovirus-related respiratory ailments before they become serious.  If your child has symptoms of a cold (runny nose, coughing) and you believe they may have contracted the virus, please bring your child to our hospital for a free quick, painless test.

If your child is suffering from a seriously compromised respiratory illness, it will be necessary to deliver further medical treatment.

Simply come to our hospital admissions area at any time of the day or night for a free pulse-oximetry test.  Meanwhile, we urge everyone to follow preventive care measures to reduce the impact of the virus.  Please note that pulse-oximetry tests cannot diagnose E-D68.

For more information on this free test, call Teton Valley Hospital at (208) 354-2383.

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Enterovirus approaches Teton County

A contagious respiratory virus has been reported as the culprit creating illness in hundreds of children primarily in the Midwest.  Most recently making the news in Denver, Colo. where a spate of respiratory infections sent approximately 900 children to nearby clinics and hospitals, there are now reports of the virus possibly moving into Utah.

The official name of the virus is enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).  It spreads from person to person just like the common cold through coughing, sneezing and touching contaminated surfaces and it’s often mistaken for a bad cold with the exception of accompanying raised red rashes in some instances.  The virus tends to strike children and can cause severe respiratory problems especially among kids with asthma or allergies.

Similar to the common cold, there isn’t a cure or vaccine for EV-D68. Most cases will be mild and unpleasant with only severe complications requiring a trip to the clinic or a hospital stay.  No deaths have been reported and none are anticipated as a result of the enterovirus infection.  Parents are urged to seek immediate medical help if their child appears to have problems breathing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the best methods for preventing EV-D68 include frequent, thorough hand washing, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces.

At this time, the CDC doesn’t know why this particular virus has made such a strong reappearance after decades of minor occurrences.

For further information, please visit www.cdc.gov/non-polio-enterovirus/ or contact Teton Valley Hospital at (208) 354-6301. You can also see related information here.

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