Symptoms of Heat Related Illnesses

As the country continues to experience one of the longest and hottest summers in history, it is becoming vitally important that we understand symptoms of heat related illnesses.

Keeping hydrated and not overexerting is essential. If a person becomes dehydrated after a period of time in the heat, such as during exercise, they can usually replenish their fluids by drinking water or sports drinks. However, if a person becomes severely dehydrated, there is no longer enough fluid in the body to carry blood to the organs. A person suffering from severe dehydration will show symptoms such as altered behavior (confusion, anxiety), faintness, inability to stand or to walk, rapid breathing, cold clammy skin or hot dry skin, and little or no urine output. Children and babies can become dehydrated much quicker than adults, because their bodies use more water and their kidneys do not conserve water as well as the kidneys of an adult.

Check on the elderly or those without air-conditioning. The key to not becoming ill is to keep the body temperature from getting too high (hyperthermia). Hyperthermia occurs when the body is unable to transfer heat by sweating or by thermoregulation, which is the direction of blood to the skin to cool our body. That is why it is so important NEVER to leave a child or an animal (or anyone, for that matter) in a car when temperatures are above normal. Hyperthermia can also occur if people are working or living in small, unventilated or poorly ventilated spaces.

Some common heat-related illnesses, their symptoms and treatments, include:

� Heat Rash. This generally occurs in babies, but can happen to anyone when the sweat ducts become blocked. Symptoms of heat rash include a rash, which looks like little pimples, and itching. Do not dress babies too warmly to prevent heat rash.

� Heat Cramps. Usually occurs after exercise, most frequently in the legs, but can also occur in the abdomen. Symptoms of heat cramps include muscle twitching, muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, weakness, fatigue. The best way to prevent heat cramps is to drink a rehydration drink like Gatorade, which not only replaces the water, but also the sodium and electrolytes that are lost when the body overheats or is overexerted.

� Heat Stress. Usually occurs when someone experiences short periods of stress while under extreme heat conditions. Symptoms of heat stress include hyperventilation, numbness or tingling, and muscle spasms. Remove the person from the heat as quickly as possible, and focus on slowing down their breathing in the case of hyperventilation.

� Heat Exhaustion. Usually occurs when someone is exercising (or working) in the heat and not keeping hydrated. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include fatigue and weakness, headache or nausea, and occasionally fainting. The skin is usually cool, moist and pale. If the symptoms are mild, it can be treated at home, but if severe, it can lead to heatstroke, which should be considered a life-threatening situation requiring immediate emergency care.

âÂ?¢ Heatstroke. Though symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion may be similar, there are important differences. Heat stroke can develop over several days. There is mental confusion. With classic heat stroke, the skin may be hot and dry and red, even in places like under arms, and a person may stop sweating. Or there may be excessive sweating in the case of “exertional heatstroke”. The person may become unconscious, or suffer seizures. If you suspect someone is suffering from heatstroke, call an ambulance or get them to the emergency room immediately.

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