Summer is finally here! Now you can spend your time at the lake, going camping, attending baseball games, and going swimming! These outdoor activities are exciting and fun. It would be unfortunate if the high heat had to ruin it! Heat illnesses cause more deaths per year than the combination of hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes, and floods! Death can be the result of very severe cases of heat illness, but many people are victims of heat illness and are able to recover if proper action is taken. There are several factors that affect the risk of getting heat illness:
- Climate – those who live in hot and humid environments have a higher risk
- Exercise and Activity – these can make it even harder for the body to cool off
- Age – the elderly and young children are more at risk
- Pre-existing illness and conditions – these may affect how the body responds to heat
- Drugs and Medications – Some may make a person more susceptible to dehydration
Here is a list of heat illnesses:
- Heat Cramps: these are painful, involuntary muscle contractions that are a result of strenuous activity in high heat. Loss of fluids and electrolytes are the underlying cause
- To treat heat cramps, rest then massage and stretch the cramped muscles. Also make sure to drink fluids.
- Heat Exhaustion: this illness occurs when lost fluid is not replaced. Signs and symptoms include weakness, dizziness, rapid and weak pulse, heavy sweating, nausea, fainting, and more. Heat cramps can also occur.
- The first thing you should do if you are experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion is to remove yourself from the heat. You will then want to cool your body down by removing excess clothing, spraying body with cool water or applying cool, wet cloths to skin, and rehydrating with an electrolyte drink such as Gatorade or just drinking milk.
- Heat Stroke: this is the most serious heat illness. The body is not able to cool itself down. The main signs and symptoms include a body temperature above 104 degrees, flushed skin, decreased level of consciousness, altered mental status, convulsions/seizures, and unconsciousness.
- To treat a heat stroke, the most important thing to do is to seek medical help immediately. Next you will want to try to cool the body using ice water soaked towels until medical help arrives. Bringing down the body temperature helps to reduce the chance and severity of brain damage, organ failure, and death.
It is so important to understand and know how to take care of heat illnesses. Although staying out of the heat is encouraged, at least try to limit your time exposed to the heat and take frequent breaks in the shade. Limit your time outside between 11am and 6pm which is when the heat is highest. It is also important to stay hydrated. Remember to wear sunscreen and protective clothing. Don’t let the heat put a damper on your summer fun!