Understanding Heat-Related Illnesses

Summertime in Alabama brings along the concern for heat-related illnesses.  In every discussion about hot weather and heat-related illnesses, I remind everyone that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they believe that “heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable.   Despite this, around 618 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year.”  The CDC recognizes heat-related illnesses as “heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn, and heat rash.”  As the heat index rises, please be sure you are mindful of not only yourself but your loved ones as well.

Simply put, heat is no joke, and what I have learned personally is that everyone’s toleration of temperature is different.  For example, I get overheated easily and will take me several hours to cool down.  I’ve experienced heat exhaustion and resulted in a trip to the hospital.  Lucky for us, the CDC has provided insight on what to look for and what to do when dealing with the possibility of a heat-related illness.

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

(Source) For more from the CDC about extreme heat, click here.  For heat-related illnesses, click here.

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