Heat Related Dangers

cartoon of sun

Hot weather can lead to several kinds of medical emergencies. No matter how healthy you are, you should take it easy during extremely high temperatures and especially if you have respiratory and other health problems. It is important to stay out of the sun as much as possible and drink extra fluids (but avoid alcoholic beverages which can cause dehydration.)

The best ways to prevent or avoid heat stress emergencies are to:

  • Drink before you get thirsty
  • Drink often
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Wear a hat or cap to keep the sun off your head
  • Keep your neck covered
  • Wear loose fitting clothing
  • Work in the cool hours of the day or evening when possible

If drinking water alone is not enough to relieve heat stress symptoms, consider drinking one of the electrolyte replacement drinks available on the market. They are a good way to replace electrolytes crucial for the proper functioning of the body. Taking salt or salt tablets is generally discouraged and should only be taken at the direction of trained medical personnel. For people suffering from heat stress, cooling the head and neck may be a quick, easy and effective means of reducing core body temperature. Heat-related injuries fall into three major categories:

  • Heat cramps
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heatstroke

Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms caused when the body loses electrolytes because of profuse sweating or when inadequate electrolytes are taken into the body to begin with. They usually begin in the arms, legs or abdomen, and often precede heat exhaustion.

Treatment for heat cramps is to rest in the shade, get near a fan, spray the person with water and massage the cramp.

Heat exhaustion is a medical emergency. When a person is suffering from heat exhaustion, they will perspire profusely and most likely will be pale.

It is best treated by taking the patient to a cool place, applying cool compresses, elevating the feet and giving the patient fluids.

Heat stroke is the worst heat-related injury. The brain has lost its ability to regulate body temperature. The patient will be hot, reddish and warm to the touch. Their temperature will be markedly high and there will be no perspiration. This is a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

The emergency care of heatstroke is to cool the body as quickly as possible. One of the best methods for cooling the body during a heat emergency is to wrap the patient in cool, wet sheets.

Please, avoid becoming a heat stress statistic and be careful in hot weather.