It’s summer which means we get to spend extra time outside in the sunshine! But with higher temperatures and more sun comes the risk of heat-related illness. Join our care team as we review heat-related illness, how to spot it, and how to respond to symptoms.
Heat-related illness, also called hyperthermia, is a general term used for any condition resulting from exposure to extreme heat where the body becomes unable to properly cool, resulting in a rapid rise in body temperature. The two main types of heat-related illness are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Both types are generally caused by high temperatures, high humidity, and direct sun which inhibit our bodies’ natural cooling systems. (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
Normally, our bodies are able to evaporate sweat which removes body heat, but, when the humidity is high, our sweat cannot evaporate as quickly. This, in turn, prevents the body from releasing heat quickly causing major complications. (CDC)
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
Nausea or vomiting
Dizziness or fainting
a person with heat exhaustion often might have cool and moist skin, indicating that the body’s ability to cool itself is still present, but the patient’s pulse rate is fast and weak, and breathing is rapid and shallow. (CDC)
Identifying Symptoms of Heat Stroke
If untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke which is a serious, life-threatening condition. Very high body temperatures can damage the brain or other vital organs. In severe cases, the problem can progress to multiple organ system failure and death.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
A body temperature greater than 103°F
Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
Rapid, strong pulse
Heatstroke requires emergency treatment. Untreated heatstroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death. (The Mayo Clinic)
What to Do If You Spot Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness
Prompt treatment of heat-related illnesses with aggressive fluid replacement and cooling of core body temperature is critical to reducing illness and preventing death. (CDC) If you think you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion, remember to:
Stop all activity and rest
Move to a cooler place
Drink cool water or sports drinks
If the symptoms progress, seek medical attention immediately and take action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment.
Get the person into shade or indoors.
Remove excess clothing.
Cool the person with whatever means available — put in a cool tub of water or a cool shower, spray with a garden hose, sponge with cool water, fan while misting with cool water, or place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person’s head, neck, armpits and groin. (The Mayo Clinic)
Preventing Heat-Related Illness
The good news is that all heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable! Before heading outside this summer, make sure you’re prepared: