Over exposure to heat can cause hyperthermia, which in turn causes heat-related illness. Hyperthermia is the process when your body cannot regulate its temperature in extreme heat. This includes heat cramps, heat rash, heat fatigue, heat syncope, sunburn, heatstroke, and heat exhaustion. Our bodies cool themselves when it is hot through sweating. However, sometimes sweating is not enough; especially when it is very humid, sweat does not evaporate fast enough and does not allow heat to escape. This is when we can suffer from a heat-related illness. According to reports from the CDC, an average 618 people a year die from a heat-related illness.
Muscles will cramp or spasm when we lose fluids and salt. Heat cramps usually follow exercise or strenuous activity.
- Stop all psychical activity and move to a cool place
- Replace the salts lost by drinking a sports drink or electrolyte-enhanced water
- Eat a salty snack
- Stretch the affected muscle
Small itchy red bumps or blisters caused by blocked up sweat ducts from excessive sweating—most likely to pop up on the neck, upper chest, groin, creases of elbow, or under the breasts.
- Keep the rash dry
- Do not wear tight clothing
- Avoid creams and thick ointments
- Relieve itch with anti-itch powder
- Go back inside
If you faint due to heat, you have experienced heat syncope. It is most likely due to dehydration.
- Rest in a cool place
- Drink water or a sports drink
Heat exhaustion happens when we do not replenish lost fluids and can happen after a period of a few days of exposure. We lose these essential fluids and salts through sweating.
Heat exhaustion victims may experience:
- Sweat heavily
- May be pale
- Experience muscle cramping
- Feel tired and weak
- Feel dizzy
- Have a pounding headache
- Might have shallow breathing
- Feel nauseous
- Possibly vomit
- Can faint
- Have a fast pulse
- Might have cool and moist feeling skin
Heat exhaustion can turn into heatstroke—the most serious heat-related illness—so the person needs treatment as soon as symptoms are noted.
- Apply cold compresses to the wrists, neck, armpit and groin
- Remove the person from the heat into the shade or a cool place
- Loosen tight clothing
- Lay the person down in a resting position
- Sip water
- Have the person take a cool shower or bath
Heatstroke or sunstroke is the most dangerous heat-related illness and you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Heat stroke happens when your body temperature rises quickly and fails to sweat. Temperatures can rise as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 15 minutes. Call 911 immediately. While you are waiting for medical attention, move the person to a cooler place, in the shade or in a building or car with air conditioning. You may put them in a cold shower or bath and fan them. DO NOT GIVE THEM FLUIDS.
Heat stroke victims may experience:
- High fever
- Red, hot, but dry skin
- Rapid pulse
Heat Illness Prevention
You can prevent all the previously mentioned heat-related illnesses by following these suggestions:
- Limit outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day.
- Stay somewhere air-conditioned—in the house, in the car, at the movies, the mall or a local library.
- Take cool showers or baths.
- Go for a swim in a cool pool, lake or river.
- Restrict any vigorous activity outdoors.
- Stay hydrated. You should be drinking water or sports drinks every 15 minutes.
- Take breaks and rest in the rest if you are playing or working outdoors.
- Keep an eye on kids and each other. As our bodies try to cool themselves, blood rushes to the skin and away from our brain and other organs, causing confusion and slowing down our mental process.
- Wear appropriate clothing- loose, lightweight clothes and a hat to protect from the sun.
- Soak a scarf, bandana or hat in cool water before wearing it.
Note: Fans do not do much to prevent heat-related illnesses when it hits 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so do not rely on them.
What is your favorite way to stay cool while working or playing outdoors? Share it with us in the comment section.