Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses
We all look forward to the long, hot days of summer. But there is a darker side of summer, heat-related illnesses, that most of us don’t know about.
Every year there are approximate 658 extreme-heat related deaths in the United States. Sadly, all these deaths could have been prevented with proper care and prevention.
What Are Heat-Related Illnesses?
Heat-related illnesses are medical conditions that occur when we are exposed to extreme or prolonged hot temperatures. Heat-related illness range from minor illnesses to life-threatening medical emergencies.
There are several heat-related illnesses, including:
- Heat Stroke
- Heat Exhaustion
- Heat Cramps
- Heat rash
What Causes Heat-Related Illnesses?
The human body has a built-in temperature regulating system known as thermoregulation. The way our bodies primarily adjust temperatures is through sweat. When the sweat evaporates, our body cools down.
However, in situations when air temperatures are above 95°F, or there is high humidity, the natural cooling mechanism becomes less efficient, and our bodies can’t cool down fast enough. This is dangerous because very high body temperatures can damage the brain and other internal organs.
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and knowing what to do can help save lives.
The following chart was published by the CDC and shows the typical symptoms of the most common heat-related illnesses and how to treat them.
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
Dehydration occurs when more fluids leave our body than enter it. Symptoms vary depending on how severely dehydrated we are.
The first symptoms of dehydration include:
- Darker Urine
- Decreased Urine Production
With moderate dehydration, more symptoms develop such as:
- Dry Mouth
- Muscle Weakness
When we lose 10-15% of our body’s water, we become severely dehydrated. In these cases, we experience extreme versions of the symptoms listed above as well as:
- Lack of Sweating
- Sunken Eyes
- Shriveled and Dry Skin
- Low Blood Pressure
- Increased Heart Rate
Know Where to Go in Case of an Emergency.
|Toddlers 1-3||4 cups|
|Children 4-8||5 cups|
|Boys 9-13||8 cups|
|Boys 14-18||11 cups|
|Girls 9-13||7 cups|
|Girls 14-18||8 cups|
|Adult Men (19 and over)||13 cups|
|Adult Women (19 and over)||9 cups|
|Pregnant Women||10 cups|
|Lactating Women||13 cups|
How to Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses
The following tips are essential to help protect your health when temperatures are extremely high.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Follow the guidelines from the chart above.
Replace Salts and Minerals
Sweat removes vital minerals and salts from the body, and therefore need to be replaced. The safest way to do this is through diet, so try eating more fruits and vegetables. You can also drink a sports beverage while exercising or working in the heat.
Wear Appropriate Clothing and Sunscreen
Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. While out in the sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat which can provide shade and keep the head cool.
Sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself and causes a loss of body fluids, so apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before you go in the sun and reapply every 2-hours.
If you are not used to exercising or working in high temperatures, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually.
If outdoor activities in the heat make your heart pound and leave you gasping for breath, STOP what you are doing. Get into a cool or shaded area, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, weak, or faint.
Stay Indoors When Possible
The best way to avoid heat-related illnesses is to stay in cool places as much as possible. Avoid being outside for long periods during the hottest times of the day between 10 am and 4 pm.
Remember if you or someone you know is showing the signs and symptoms of heat stroke or heat exhaustion, you need to come into the nearest Altus Emergency Centers. Use our online check-in form, and our staff of qualified physicians will be waiting for you at the door.
Both heat stroke and heat exhaustion are dangerous conditions and need immediate medical attention to avoid long term injury or death.