What are Some of the Warning Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses and What Should I Do?

There are a variety of heat-related illnesses and the warning signs and symptoms are similar, but unique for each. Some of the most common illnesses and their warning signs are:

Heat stroke –a potentially life-threatening emergency and is the most serious heat-related illness. This occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature and the sweating mechanism fails. This type of illness can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

  • Look for: high body temperature typically 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; losing consciousness or passing out; nausea, confusion, dizziness, or headache; hot, red, dry or damp skin
  • What to do: Call 911 immediately; do not give the person anything to drink. It is imperative to begin cooling; move them to a cooler place and help lower their body temperature quickly with a cold water or ice bath if possible – wet the skin, place wet cloths on skin or soak clothing with cool water.

Heat exhaustion – a milder form of heat-related illness, exhaustion can take place after several days of exposure to high temperatures and an unbalanced or inadequate replenishment of fluids. Typically occurs in elderly people, people with high blood pressure and those who work or exercise in a hot environment. get medical help right away if you or the person affected is throwing up, you or the person affected has symptoms that are getting worse or last more than one hour.

  • Look for: heavy sweating, cold and clammy skin; nausea or vomiting; fast or weak pulse; dizziness and headache; tiredness or weakness; muscle cramps.
  • What to do: move to a cool place, sip water, loosen your clothes or put cool, wet cloths on your body

Heat cramps – muscle pains or spasms (typically in the abdomen, arms or legs) that may occur with strenuous activity. People who sweat a lot during activity are prone to heat cramps as sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture causing painful cramps.

  • Look for: heavy sweating during intense exercise and muscle pains or spasms
  • What to do: stop physical activity and move to a cool place, wait for cramps to dissipate before continuing any activity, drink water or a sports drink

Heat rash – skin irritation caused by excessive sweating. This can occur at any age, but is more common in young children

  • Look for: red clusters of small blisters that look like pimples on the skin, typically on neck, chest, groin or in elbow creases
  • What to do: stay in a cool, dry place, use powder to soothe the rash and keep the rash dry

Which groups are more vulnerable to extreme heat?

  • Infants and children up to four years of age
  • People 65 years or older
  • People who are ill or on certain medications
  • People who are overweight
  • In addition, the risk for heat-related illness and death may increase among people who use the following drugs:
    • Psychotropics that affect psychic function, behavior, or experience
    • Medications for Parkinson’s disease because they can inhibit perspiration
    • Tranquilizers
    • Diuretic medications or “water pills” that can affect the fluid balance in the body

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