By Alexis Clark

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — As the country has experienced unprecedented heatwaves this summer, Tennessee State University experts took the stage to ensure the safety and well-being of their students, staff, athletes, and the Nashville community. With temperatures soaring, the risks of heat related illnesses become a major concern across the country.

The university has been proactive in educating the community about the do’s and don’ts during these sweltering days and how to beat the heat. 

Dr. Wendelyn Inman, interim public health program director at TSU, stressed the importance of staying hydrated to combat extreme heat and associated illnesses like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and severe dehydration.

“For a physician their patient is an individual. For public health, our patient is the community,” Inman said. “We want our community to have the best outcome when that heat wave is going on.”

This past July has been slated as the hottest month in the world with alarming records that have already been broken this summer, according to CNN.

“Everything that we can do centers around getting them out of the heat and into a cooler place,” she said. “Even five to ten degrees will make a big difference.” Inman reiterated that drinking more water, staying in shaded areas and wearing sunscreen are preventive mechanisms if you are outside to lower the impact of unmitigated sunshine. While indoors, “be sure that the spaces that are occupied are climate controlled,” she said.

Dr. Latasha Williams, assistant professor and didactic program in dietetics director said from heat stroke to heat exhaustion, when looking for symptoms, the first step is to disclose the severity of dehydration. “Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that occurs due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures and inadequate fluid intake,” Williams said. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, dizziness and fainting.

While heat stroke sets in as high body temperatures, altered mental state, hot dry skin and nausea.

“Opt for lighter meals, consume electrolyte-replenishing beverages and listen to your body,” Williams said. “By following these strategies, you can help maintain adequate food and nutrient intake during extreme heat while also supporting your body’s hydration needs and overall well-being.”

From a public health standpoint, Dr. Inman said it’s significant to be mindful of those who are more at risk of heat related illnesses.

“Think about the people who can’t tell you that they’re hot. That’s who you should be most concerned about,” she said referring to infants, and possibly disabled individuals and senior citizens.

TSU director of sports medicine, Trevor Searcy spoke about how the athletic department also takes innovative measures to ensure the athletes’ safety and mitigate possible heat illness as the university offers several outdoor sports.

From a brand-new hydration station, to rescheduling training sessions to early mornings, Searcy said the university has resources, protocols and emergency action plans set for preventable measures. “We are required to test wet-bulb (globe temperature), which is ambient air, temperature, and humidity every 30 minutes of outdoor activity,” Searcy said.

He noted that the department is cautious about heat after reaching 80 degrees by giving more water breaks, carrying ice towels, cold IV fluids and taking off lower and upper body equipment for football.

“If it’s hot outside and you notice an athlete is not sweating, that’s a flag to pull them aside,” he said. “After 90 degrees it is advised to go in doors and our coaches are really receptive to that.”

And with the hydration center at TSU that consists of drinks, fans, and snacks, it ensures that the athletes stay hydrated on and off the field.

Together, TSU experts are navigating through the scorching temperatures and continue to demonstrate preparedness to beat the heat in Tennessee.