The human body always tries to maintain its normal temperature of about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat related illness, ranging from mild to life threatening, results when the body is exposed to more heat than it is able to handle.
Types of Illness (Ranging From Least To Most Severe)
Heat Fatigue: This is the mildest heat illness. Symptoms include headaches and feeling uncomfortable, irritable, confused and very tired. Treat heat fatigue by having the victim get out of the heat, drink lots of cool liquids and slow activities down until his/her body adjusts to the temperature.
Heat Swelling: This is a very common condition, especially for those people not used to hot weather. Symptoms include mild swelling of the hands, feet or ankles. Treat by having the victim drink cool liquids and raise his/her legs or wear support stockings.
Heat Rash: This is an itchy rash, also known as 'prickly heat,' that develops on skin which is moist from sweating. To treat heat rash keep the skin clean and dry while trying to avoid heat.
Heat Syncope: Heat syncope is fainting due to overheating. To treat this condition have the victim lie down with feet raised, check for injuries (in case of a possible fall), loosen the victim's clothing, place a cool, wet cloth on his/her forehead and seek medical attention if victim is not fully recovered in 5 minutes.
Heat Cramps: These are sudden, painful muscle spasms which affect the legs or abdominal muscles. Heat cramps usually occur after several hours of hard physical activity in people who sweat a lot or have not consumed enough fluids. Treat heat cramps by moving the victim to a cool place, stretching the affected muscle(s) and providing the person with cool, lightly salted water or an electrolyte replacing drink.
Heat Exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is a more serious heat-related illness. Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, headache, weakness, sweating and vomiting. Treat by getting the victim to a cool place, removing the victim's excess clothing, sponging the person with cool water and fanning him\her, providing cool, lightly salted water or electrolyte replacement drinks if the victim is conscious, and seeking medical help if the victim does not improve within 30 minutes.
Heatstroke: Also known as sunstroke, this is the most serious heat-related illness. There are two main signs of heatstroke:
1. hot skin with high body temperature (skin may feel either wet or dry)
2. victim feels confused and exhibits strange behavior
Other symptoms include unconsciousness, seizures, quick breathing and rapid pulse. This is a life threatening emergency that must be treated by immediately calling 911 for emergency assistance and removing the victim's clothing and cooling his/her body as quickly as possible using whatever available means. If in conditions with relative humidity greater than 75%, use coldpacks. If humidity is less than 75%, sprinkle victim with water and fan him/her. Stop the cooling procedure when the victim’s mental state improves, keep the victim’s head and shoulders elevated slightly and treat seizures if necessary.
Who Is at Risk?
Heat-related illness can affect ANYONE not used to hot weather, especially when it is combined with high humidity. But certain people are particularly susceptible, including:
babies and young children
people who are physically unfit
people with circulatory or heart problems or other long-term illness
employees who work in hot environments
athletes and others (especially beginners) who enjoy exercise
drug users, alcoholics and others on certain medications
Hot Weather Safety Tips
NEVER leave children or pets in an enclosed car - even if the windows are slightly open
Take care of your body...eat healthy, stay fit and get plenty of sleep
Drink plenty of fluids (avoiding alcohol and caffeinated beverages)
Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting cotton clothing
Learn the symptoms of various heat illnesses and know the appropriate first aid measures
Try to spend the hottest part of the day in air conditioning
Keep tabs on how you and others are feeling in the heat
Allow several days to adjust to hot environments
Plan for hot weather...listen to weather reports
Do not take salt tablets