It’s looking like it will be a hot and humid summer and as we venture outdoors to enjoy recreation and exercise, the possibility for heat exhaustion and heat stroke rises. Heat exhaustion can occur after a person has been exposed to high temperatures for a long period of time and is often accompanied by dehydration. There are two types of heat exhaustion: water depletion and salt depletion. Signs of water depletion include excessive thirst, weakness, headache and loss of consciousness. Salt depletion can cause nausea, vomiting, cramping and dizziness. Prolonged heat exhaustion can lead to the more serious condition of heat stroke, which occurs when the body’s internal temperature equals or exceeds 103°F. Heat stroke can lead to brain and organ damage, and even death.
Heat exhaustion is strongly related to the heat index, a measurement of how hot you feel in relation to humidity and air temperature. A heat index of 90 or more greatly increases the chances of heat-related illness. Make sure to stay hydrated, find a cool location to take breaks from fun and exercise, and be cognizant of how the heat is affecting you.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
- Cold, pale or clammy skin
- Fast, weak pulse
- Muscle cramps
If you believe someone you know is experiencing heat exhaustion, the most important thing to do is to remove them from the heat into a cool place and have them sip water (do not quaff or guzzle). Have them loosen their clothing and apply cool, wet cloths to the body or take a cool bath. If their symptoms get worse, persist for more than an hour or vomiting occurs, contact medical help immediately.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
- Body temperature equals or exceeds 103°F
- Hot, red, damp or dry skin
- Loss of consciousness
If you believe someone is experiencing heat stroke, move them to a cool place and call 9-1-1 immediately. Use cool cloths or a cool bath to help lower their body temperature. In this instance, DO NOT give the person anything to drink. And remember to never give sugary or alcoholic drinks to anyone you believe is suffering from a heat-related malady.
Individuals most at risk of a heat-related illness are children up to age four, adults over the age of 65, and those suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, sickle cell anemia, kidney disease, heart disease, alcoholism or mental illness. Some medications can increase the chances of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Ways to Prevent Heat Exhaustion
- Wear lightweight clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, if possible.
- Use sunscreen with SPF30 or higher.
- Drink extra fluids (more so if exercising).
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Stay smart and safe as you enjoy your time in the sun. Get out there, throw on the shades, the hippest summer clothing and be cool!
CDC. (2021). Warning signs of heat related illness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning.html
WebMD. (2021). Heat Exhaustion. WebMD. Retrieved from webmd.com/fitness-exercise/heat-exhaustion#1