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Avoiding Heat-Related Illnesses During Summer

By Sara Butler

Sometimes you can get so caught up in the fun you’re having outside in the summer you forget to cool down and hydrate. When you push your body too much in the heat and don’t let it cool down it can have some severe health consequences. Here are the three types of heat-related illness and emergencies, and what you should do if you encounter them this summer.

No. 1: Heat Cramps

When you get heat cramps it’s due to the loss of electrolytes (such as salt) in your body that helps you hang onto your hydration. Symptoms of heat cramps include:

  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Thirst

If you don’t take a break, get cooled off and drink some much-needed water or you can move on to a more serious heat illness: Heat exhaustion.

No. 2: Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is caused by dehydration. The symptoms of this heat illness include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Dark urine
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

When you don’t take measures to address this heat emergency then it will progress to heat stroke, the most serious of the three.

No. 3: Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is very serious and can cause brain damage, shock, organ failure, and even death. The symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Body temperature of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Confusion
  • Strange behavior
  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Weak but fast pulse
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizure
  • Dry, hot and red skin

What You Should Do

When you notice signs of heat cramps you need to immediately seek shade or shelter and drink water or a sports drink. Do not go back to the activity that caused heat cramps until three hours after your symptoms have subsided or you risk winding up in the same position. If you treat the heat cramps but they don’t go away, get medical help.

If you think you’ve progressed to heat exhaustion you should immediately stop what you’re doing and get to a cool place to rest and get a cold drink. You can even take a cool shower or bath. The main objective is to get your body temperature down and back to normal.

If you suspect you or someone with you is experiencing heat stroke then medical assistance should be called for immediately. A cool, shady place needs to be found for the sufferer until help can arrive. Their skin needs to be cooled with water, such as a towel soaked in cold water. You should not drink or give someone a drink who you suspect has heat stroke if they are losing consciousness or vomiting.

The key to avoiding these illnesses is to simply be aware and monitor yourself and those with you when it’s very hot outside!

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