A lot of medical emergencies can occur during the warm weather months such as mowing and boating accidents. Many people take precautions to decrease their risk of experiencing a heat-related medical emergency. Two medical conditions many people often don’t realize they have during the summer can turn deadly. These medical conditions are heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
The Dangers of Heat Stroke and Exhaustion
Heat stroke is a medical condition caused by overheating. It is dangerous because a person’s body overheats from being in the heat too long or are physically active in high temperatures. Body temperature can rise to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and become a heat injury.
Heat exhaustion, which is a bit different than heat stroke, requires emergency treatment due to its severely dangerous nature. It can quickly damage a person’s muscles, kidneys, heart, or brain and may even result in death if an individual doesn’t receive treatment. The overheating is caused by the body’s inability to regulate its internal temperature. The body needs to regulate according to the weather to maintain a normal temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Difference Between Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion
While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between both heat exhaustion and heat stroke. First, heat exhaustion typically comes with a fever less than 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and insatiable thirst, weakness, slow heartbeat, and even dizziness and fainting. Heat stroke often follows the symptoms shown by heat exhaustion.
Heat stroke often occurs when your body’s temperature begins to uncontrollably rise as the cooling system begins to fail. While some of the symptoms of heat stroke overlap with symptoms of heat exhaustion, watch out for vomiting, shortness of breath, and decreased urination. Any of these symptoms are cause for concern and should be reason enough to seek out treatment as they can lead to permanent damage and even death.
The Symptoms to Look For
Heat exhaustion symptoms may develop over time or suddenly. Not everyone will experience the same symptoms. However, the following heat exhaustion symptoms are:
- Heavy sweating
- Tiny bumps on the skin in the heat
- Moist and cool skin
- Muscle cramps
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Low blood pressure after standing
Heat stroke symptoms include some heat exhaustion symptoms such as a headache and nausea. However, heat stroke symptoms and more severe and include:
- Flushed skin
- Vomiting (a person may feel sick to their stomach or vomit)
- Raid breathing
- Altered behavior or mental state (a person may experience symptoms ranging from slurred speech, confusion, irritability, coma, agitation and delirium to a coma)
- Racing heart rate
- High body temperature (a person’s core body temperature is 104 F or higher)
Another heat-related stroke symptom, lack of sweating, will depend on the cause of the stroke. For example, if the stroke is caused by hot weather, the skin will feel dry and hot to the touch. If the heat-related stroke is caused by strenuous physical activity, the skin will feel a little moist or dry to the touch.
Tips to Avoid Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion
One way to prevent any heat-related illness is to maintain a cool body temperature when in the sun or heat. Tips on how to do this are: •Don’t drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages in the heat. Caffeine and alcohol increase dehydration.
- Do wear lightweight clothing or light-colored clothing that is loose fitting when outside in the heat.
- Do drink two to four cups of water each hour while doing physical activities in the sun or heat.
- Don’t perform physical activities outside during the hottest part of the day or in direct sun.
- Do take cool showers and baths on hot days to help cool down.
- Do take frequent breaks when exercising or working in the sun or heat.
- Don’t leave children, pets or adults in a closed, parked vehicle at any time during the summer. Even in mildly warm weather, they can experience a heat-related illness.
What To Do If It Happens To You or Someone You Know
If someone is experiencing exhaustion symptoms because of the heat have them immediately stop all physical activities. They need to go to a cool place where they can rest. Have them drink sports drinks or cool water to help replenish the fluids in their body and regulate their internal temperature. If they continue to experience symptoms after an hour, seek emergency medical attention for them.
Also, seek emergency medical attention for them if they suffer heat stroke symptoms. Get them to an indoor or shaded area. Take off any excess clothing such as a jacket. Cool the person down by using any means available such as a garden hose, cool shower, fan with cool water mist or ice packs.