Heat Related Illness

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What is a heat-related illness?:

  • When the body's temperature control system is unable to compensate and the body can no longer cool itself.
  • When blood is flowing properly to the skin, extra heat from the body is pumped to the skin and removed by sweat evaporation. 
  • If fluids are not replaced soon enough, heat stroke can result, potentially leading to brain damage or death.

Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness:

  • Drink more fluids, regardless of your activity level. 
  • Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. 
  • Do not drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar because these can cause you to lose more body fluid. 
  • A sports beverage can replace salts and minerals that are lost when sweating.
  • Avoid hot foods and heavy meals because they add heat to your body.
  • If possible, stay indoors and in an air-conditioned place. 
  • Limit use of stoves and ovens to keep home temperatures lower.
  • If you do not have air conditioning, go to a public location with air conditioning. 
  • A few hours in air conditioning can help your body. 
  • A cool shower or bath is also an effective way to cool off. 
  • Electric fans provide some comfort, but with temperatures in the high 90's and above, they will not prevent heat-related illness.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • NEVER leave anyone (children/pets) in a closed, parked vehicle.
  • Consult your doctor regarding medications (prescription & over the counter) they may increase your risk. 
  • Groups that are at greater risk of suffering from heat-related illness: Infants and young children, people age 65 or older, people who have a mental illness, those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure 

If you must be out in the heat:

  • Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
  • Try to rest often in shady areas.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. 
  • Remember to put on SPF 15 or higher. 
  • Sunburn can significantly slow the skin's ability to release excess heat.               

Heat Stroke or Sun Stroke:

  • This is the most serious heat-related illness and is a life threatening condition.
  • The body becomes unable to control its temperature, body temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. 
  • Warning signs: 
    • Extremely high body temperature (105+)
    • Red, hot, and dry skin
    • Rapid and shallow breathing
    • Throbbing headache
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Confusion
    • Unconsciousness
  • First aid for heat stroke:
  • Call for immediate emergency assistance while beginning to cool the victim. 
  • Delay can be fatal.
  • Get the victim to a shady area.
  • Cool the victim rapidly (immerse in a tub of cool water, place in shower, spray the victim with garden hose, sponge with water, wrap in a cool wet sheet)
  • Monitor body temperature and continue to cool until temperature drops to 101-102°F.

Heat Exhaustion:

  • This is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. 
  • Warning signs: 
    • Heavy sweating
    • Skin may be pale, cool and moist
    • Pulse will be fast and weak
    • Breathing will be fast and shallow
    • Muscle cramps
    • Tiredness
    • Weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Headache
    • Nausea/vomiting
    • Fainting
  • First aid for heat exhaustion:
    • Cool the body during heat exhaustion by drinking cool nonalcoholic beverages.
    • Get to an air-conditioned area.
    • Lie down in a cool place and rest.
    • Take a cool shower/bath.
    • Change in to light weight clothing.
    • Consume water slowly.

Heat Cramps:

  • Muscle pains or spasms that occur usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs due to heavy exertion.
  • Although they are the least severe heat-related illness they are often the first sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.
  • First aid for heat cramps (if medical attention is not necessary):
    • Stop all activity and sit quietly in a cool place.
    • Lightly stretch and gently massage affected muscles.
    • Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.
    • Do not resume strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps have left because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
    • If heat cramps continue past 1 hour, seek medical attention.