Heat-related illnesses: Here are symptoms to watch for, what to do next

Woman drinking water (Pexels)

Extreme heat can take a toll on even the healthiest of humans. 

However, infants and toddlers, people who are 65 or older, anyone who is overweight and people on certain medications can be at the highest risk for heat-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Precention (CDC). Those illnesses can include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn and heat rash. 

According to the CDC, people suffer heat-related illness when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. From the CDC

The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs. Several factors affect the body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, preventing the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions that can limit the ability to regulate temperature include old age, youth (age 0-4), obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug use and alcohol use. 

The CDC offers the following symptoms for heat-related illnesses and what to do if you or someone you know experiences them:

Heat Stroke

  • WHAT TO LOOK FOR
    • High body temperature (103°F or higher)
    • Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
    • Fast, strong pulse
    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Confusion
    • Losing consciousness (passing out)
  • WHAT TO DO
    • Call 911 right away-heat stroke is a medical emergency
    • Move the person to a cooler place
    • Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
    • Do not give the person anything to drink

Here's a short explanation from Local 4's Dr. Frank McGeorge on how heat stroke works: 

Heat Exhaustion

  • WHAT TO LOOK FOR
    • Heavy sweating
    • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
    • Fast, weak pulse
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Muscle cramps
    • Tiredness or weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Headache
    • Fainting (passing out)
  • WHAT TO DO
    • Move to a cool place
    • Loosen your clothes
    • Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath
    • Sip water
  • Get medical help right away if:
    • You are throwing up
    • Your symptoms get worse
    • Your symptoms last longer than 1 hour

Heat Cramps

  • WHAT TO LOOK FOR
    • Heavy sweating during intense exercise
    • Muscle pain or spasms
  • WHAT TO DO
    • Stop physical activity and move to a cool place
    • Drink water or a sports drink
    • Wait for cramps to go away before you do any more physical activity
    • Get medical help right away if:
    • Cramps last longer than 1 hour
    • You’re on a low-sodium diet
    • You have heart problems

Sunburn

  • WHAT TO LOOK FOR
    • Painful, red, and warm skin
    • Blisters on the skin
  • WHAT TO DO
    • Stay out of the sun until your sunburn heals
    • Put cool cloths on sunburned areas or take a cool bath
    • Put moisturizing lotion on sunburned areas
    • Do not break blisters

Heat Rash

  • WHAT TO LOOK FOR
    • Red clusters of small blisters that look like pimples on the skin (usually on the neck, chest, groin, or in elbow creases)
  • WHAT TO DO
    • Stay in a cool, dry place
    • Keep the rash dry
    • Use powder (like baby powder) to soothe the rash

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