With the summer heat and humidity, comes the risk of overheating from overexertion. During these hot and humid months, it’s important to be aware of the signs of heat illness. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both serious consequences of spending too much time in the sun without proper hydration. If left untreated, these conditions can have life-threatening consequences. The best way to prevent heat-related illnesses is to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before you go outside and while you’re outside. But what should you do if someone you know experiences any of these symptoms? Heat exhaustion is a risk for anyone active outdoors during the summer.
The heat and humidity of summer can be dangerous. As the planet warms, heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense. In the United States alone, there are about 525 heat-related deaths each year on average.
The most common ways to check for heat exhaustion and dehydration are by looking for clammy skin, a pulse that is fast or weak, weakness or fainting, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache and thirst. Read on to learn more about how to spot this condition and how to help prevent it.
Is there any difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke?
Heat exhaustion is the milder form of heat illness. It is caused by dehydration and excessive exposure to heat that causes a loss of fluids.
Heat stroke, on the other hand, is caused by the inability of the body to regulate its internal temperature. While heat stroke requires immediate medical attention, heat exhaustion can be treated at home. Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur if you spend a lot of time in the heat.
Both conditions can be prevented by staying hydrated. The best way to prevent heat-related illnesses is to drink plenty of water before you go outside and while you’re outside. You can also prevent heat-related illnesses by wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing and using a wide-brimmed hat, as well as by staying in the shade as much as possible.
Here are some symptoms to look out for
- Dry, flushed skin – Heat exhaustion will only result in light and flushed skin. If the skin becomes too dry, you may be suffering from heatstroke, which can be fatal.
- Extreme fatigue – Heat exhaustion will cause extreme fatigue. Heatstroke will make you feel very weak and possibly disoriented.
- High body temperature – If you take your temperature and find it is above 38°C, you are likely suffering from heatstroke.
- Headache – A headache, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness are all signs of heatstroke.
Heat illness prevention
Keep yourself hydrated and avoid heat illness by following these tips:
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing – This will help keep you cool while keeping your skin covered.
- Stay in the shade when possible – Keeping out of the direct sunlight will help you stay cooler.
- Don’t over-exert yourself – If you feel yourself getting overheated, take a break. You don’t want to push yourself too far and risk getting heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
- Eat plenty of water-rich foods – Foods like watermelon are great sources of water.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol – Both of these dehydrate the body.
The disruption of energy will make things worse
It’s important to note that dehydration, which is the leading cause of heat illness, impairs your body’s ability to regulate temperature. If you are dehydrated, your body cannot effectively cool itself. This means it will take longer to recover from being overheated. A person suffering from heat illness might be able to get back to normal more quickly if they are given fluids.
The disruption of energy will make things worse in the sense that it will take longer to recover from heat illness. If a person is dehydrated, it will take longer for them to recover from heat illness.
In case of heat illness, how to help
If you think someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, help them get to a cool, shaded area as soon as possible.
- Make sure they are drinking enough water.
- If you see signs of heat stroke, call for emergency help as soon as possible.
- Cool the person off. Remove as many layers as necessary.
- Place the person in a cool, shaded area.
- If the person is conscious, give them something to drink, but only small amounts at a time.
- If the person is unconscious, don’t give them anything to drink.
- Look for signs of improvement in 30 minutes. If the person isn’t getting better, call for medical help.
The summer heat causes an increased risk of heat illness, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These two conditions are caused by overexposure to the sun, dehydration, and/or improper clothing. To avoid these health risks, stay hydrated and in the shade as much as possible, and wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing. If you or someone else is experiencing symptoms of heat illness, get to a shaded area and drink plenty of water.