How to prevent heat illness
Think of your ideal summer…. swimming, camping, hiking, and barbecues with friends and family likely come to mind. But while having fun in the sun, it’s important to protect yourself from the heat. This is especially true here in Central Texas where we routinely have a heat index greater than 100. The two most common heat-related illnesses to watch out for are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke….. what’s the difference?
Though the terms sound similar, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very different. Both conditions are due to the body’s inability to adequately get rid of heat in hot environments.
The general term for heat-related syndromes is heat illness. When someone is working or exercising in a hot or humid environment, the body responds by sweating and increasing breathing rate to prevent core body temperature from rising.
If a person gets overheated and is moved to a cool environment, then the body can slowly recover. However, if left in this hot environment, then they can develop a heat illness.
Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms and Treatments
Those who are suffering from heat exhaustion may experience the following symptoms:
- Heat rash- stinging skin irritation that turns the skin red or even a bit “prickly”
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Excessive sweating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pale, cool, clammy skin
- Weak, rapid heart rate
- Heat cramps- painful spams in the muscles
If someone is suffering from heat exhaustion move them to somewhere cool, with air conditioning, as quickly as possible.
Have them drink water if they are fully conscious but avoid alcohol or beverages with caffeine. If they are able, have them take a cool shower or use cold compresses to lower their body temperature.
Visit an urgent care or emergency room if symptoms don’t improve in 30 minutes or if they’re having recurrent vomiting.
Heat Stroke: Symptoms and Treatments
While heat exhaustion is on the milder range of heat illness, heat stroke is considered a medical emergency.
Here are the symptoms of heat stroke:
- No sweating
- Throbbing headache
- Red, hot skin
- Body temperature above 103 degrees
- Rapid, strong heart rate
- Loss of consciousness or altered mental state
If you think someone is exhibiting symptoms of a heat stroke, call 911 or get them to an ER immediately.
While you’re waiting for help or taking someone to get medical care, make sure to get them to a cool, air-conditioned environment. You should also help them to cool down with cold compresses and a fan.
Unlike treatment for heat exhaustion, don’t give fluids to someone suffering from heat stroke. It’s not safe to give someone suffering from a heat stroke anything by mouth.
Heat Illness Prevention
During the peak summer heat, keep you and your family safe by staying cool in air-conditioned buildings. When enjoying the outdoors, limit time outside during the midday hours, which are the hottest part of the day.
Have plenty of water available to stay hydrated. Your clothes should be loose-fitting, light-colored, and lightweight. Of course, nothing beats the feel of keeping cool in a pool or by taking a refreshing shower.
Finally, keep an eye on vulnerable family and friends. The elderly and people with physical impairments may have a more difficult time detecting a rise in temperature. It might also be more difficult for them to move to cooler areas to keep themselves safe.
With these simple tips, you can look forward to a summer of longer days and fun in the sun.