We are all aware of the intense heat that comes from living in the south. We get some summer days that are pure scorchers! The thing about this heat is that it is not only miserable, but it can also cause medical problems, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. This heat-related illnesses are caused by your body being unable to coll itself. The body uses sweat to naturally cool you down. When you are working strenuously in a hot environment, your body may have problems producing enough sweat to keep the body cool. A few other causes of heat exhaustion could include wearing heavier, tight clothing, drinking alcohol, and dehydration.
Heat Exhaustion Vs. Heat Stroke
Heat exhaustion is usually less serious than heat stroke. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include weakness of the body, heavy sweating, weak but fast pulse, nausea or vomiting, pale, cold, clammy skin, and possible fainting. When an individual is having a heat stroke, their symptoms are different. They usually experience an elevated body temperature (above 103), rapid and strong pulse, hot, red, dry or moist skin, and loss or change in consciousness.
Risk Factors for Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
It is important to remember that anyone can develop these conditions, but there are certain risk factors that may put a person at an increased risk for developing this heat sensitivity. These include:
- Age: Infants & children under the age of 4 and adults aged 65 and older are at an increased risk. The ability to temperature regulate is harder at these ages.
- Prescription medicines: Some medicines used to treat high blood pressure or heart conditions may reduce your ability to stay hydrated.
- Obesity: The more you weigh, the more heat your body retains. When overweight, it can also be more difficult to cool your body down.
- High heat index: Heat index measures humidity along with outside temperature to determine how hot it feels to you. If humidity is high, sweat evaporates more easily and it is more difficult to cool yourself down. When the heat index is greater than 91, you should focus on preventing heat exhaustion or stroke.
Treating Heat Related Illnesses
Once you begin having symptoms of heat exhaustion, you should try and find a cool place to rest. It can also help to lie down, but if you cannot, just cease from doing strenuous activities. This can help your body temperature start to regulate itself. RE-HYDRATE! Drinking water or sports drinks can help avoid dehydration. Once you have nausea or vomiting, it is important to seek medical attention right away. A heat stroke is considered to be a medical emergency!
Preventing Heat Related Illnesses: Before They Happen
The key to preventing heat related illnesses is keeping your body temperature at a cooler level. This is very important for individuals who will be working outside in the heat or the sun. The following are good prevention tips:
- Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages if doing strenuous activities
- Stay hydrated!
- Wear light, colored, loose, lightweight clothing when working outside in heat. Add a wide-brimmed hat that will keep sun from your face.
- Try to avoid doing activities outside during the hottest parts of the day and in direct sunlight
- Take frequent breaks when working or exercising in the heat
- Take cooler baths or showers on a hot day to cool you down
- NEVER leave any person or pets in a closed parked car. The temperature in a closed car can become hotter than the temperature outside, which can lead to heat related illnesses.
For more information, check out Do You Have Heat Stroke or Heat Exhaustion?