With the increase in outdoor temperatures also comes an increase in the possibility of heat stress — possibly even heat exhaustion or heatstroke — but there are some steps you can take to help beat the heat. “Now that we’re getting into summertime temperatures, and people are looking to stay active outdoors, there are a few basic signs and tips to help be aware of the risks for heat-related illness or hyperthermia,” said Mark Faries, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension state health specialist in the agency’s Family and Community Health Unit.
Those at higher risk include adults 65 years of age or older, infants, children up to 4-5 years of age and those with existing medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or obesity. Anyone, however, can succumb to heat with outdoor activity, with added concerns from drinking alcohol, low hydration and even with some medications. It’s easy for heat stress to sneak up on us when we are engaged in outdoor activities, so learning ways to ‘beat the heat,’ and protect ourselves from the sun are also important for staying healthy during the summer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of heat stress may include headache, thirst, general weakness, increased body temperature, dizziness, loss of appetite, excessive sweating, cramping, fast breathing and rapid pulse. Here are some of the symptoms and treatments for different levels of heat stress offered by the CDC:
- Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating. It appears as a red cluster of small blisters, usually in the area of the neck, upper chest or groin, as well as under the chest, at the waist and in elbow creases. People experiencing heat rash should find a cooler, less humid place to treat for it and keep the rash area as dry as possible.
- Heat cramps typically occur when a person sweats a good deal during physical activity, causing muscle pains or spasms. The cramping usually occurs in the arms, legs or abdomen. To treat muscle cramps, the CDC recommends stopping the activity and relocating to a cooler place. Drink plenty of water or a sports drink with electrolytes to replace lost liquids and refrain from any further activity until the cramps subside. If the cramping lasts for more than an hour or if you are on a low-sodium diet or have heart problems, it’s best to seek immediate medical help.
- Heat exhaustion can include weakness, excessive sweating, dizziness, headache, nausea, muscle cramps, a rapid pulse and cold, clammy skin. In more serious instances, heat exhaustion can also cause vomiting or fainting. Relocate the person to a cooler area, loosen their clothing and put a wet cloth or cold compress on key areas of the body, such as the forehead, neck and armpits. If there is vomiting or extreme weakness or the symptoms get worse or last more than an hour, seek medical help.
- Heatstroke — If a person’s body temperature gets above 103 degrees, this can likely lead to heatstroke. Oddly, during heatstroke, the body actually stops sweating. Also, the pulse weakens and the skin becomes flushed and red. With heatstroke, the individual may also experience an altered mental state, a racing heart and/or severe nausea or vomiting. Heatstroke is a medical emergency, and the CDC recommends calling 911 immediately. Until emergency medical assistance arrives, CDC suggests moving the person to a shaded, cool area and removing any outer clothing the person may be wearing. Cool the individual with cold water or ice. Wet the skin and place cold, wet clothes or compresses on key points, such as the head, neck, armpits and groin. Or soak the person’s clothing with cool water.
These treatment suggestions are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Take care in our Texas summer Heat!
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