The middle of summer has arrived, bringing along the hot temperatures. These extreme conditions increase the risk of heat-related illnesses, which can often escalate quickly.
Are you at a higher risk? The most at risk individuals include:
- Infants and young children
- Elderly people
- Individuals with heart or circulatory problems or other long-term illness
- People who work outdoors
- Athletes and people who like to exercise – especially beginners
- Individuals taking medications that alter sweat production
- Alcoholics and drug abusers
3 Most Common Heat-Related Illnesses:
Heatstroke. Heatstroke can occur when the ability to sweat fails and body temperature rises quickly. The brain and vital organs are affected as body temperature rises to a dangerous level in a matter of minutes. Heatstroke is often fatal, and those who do survive may have permanent damage to their organs.
- The Signs & What to Do. Someone experiencing heatstroke will have extremely hot skin, and an altered mental state, ranging from slight confusion to coma. Seizures also can result. Ridding the body of excess heat is crucial for survival.
- Move the person into a half-sitting position in the shade
- Call for emergency medical help immediately
- If humidity is below 75%, spray the victim with water and fan them vigorously; if humidity is above 75%, apply ice to neck, armpits or groin
- Do not give aspirin or acetaminophen
- Do not give the victim anything to drink
Heat Exhaustion. When the body loses an excessive amount of salt and water, heat exhaustion can set in. People who work outdoors and athletes are particularly susceptible.
- The Signs & What to Do. Symptoms are similar to those of the flu and can include severe thirst, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting and, sometimes, diarrhea. Other symptoms include profuse sweating, clammy or pale skin, dizziness, rapid pulse and normal or slightly elevated body temperature.
- Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heatstroke, so make sure to treat the victim quickly
- Move them to a shaded or air-conditioned area
- Give them water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages
- Apply wet towels or having them take a cool shower
Heat Cramps. Heat cramps are muscle spasms that usually affect the legs or abdominal muscles, often after physical activity. Excessive sweating reduces salt levels in the body, which can result in heat cramps.
- The Signs & What to Do. Workers or athletes with pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs should not return to work for a few hours.
- Sit or lie down in the shade.
- Drink cool water or a sports drink.
- Stretch affected muscles.
- Seek medical attention if you have heart problems or if the cramps don’t get better in an hour.