It is that time of year — sweltering heat and humidity that just will not break. Besides being uncomfortable, high heat can also be dangerous for your health.
Being outside for extended periods of time in high heat or engaging in strenuous physical activity when it is hot puts you at risk for heat emergencies.
The first heat emergency that occurs may be heat cramps. If left untreated, heat cramps can escalate to heat exhaustion.
The most severe type of heat emergency is heat stroke, which can result in brain damage and organ failure. People can die from heat stroke.
So what should you do if you or someone else has heat stroke? Pay attention to the symptoms of heat cramps and heat exhaustion so it does not escalate to heat stroke.
Individuals with heat cramps may have muscle cramps, fatigue, profuse sweating and thirst.
When it becomes heat exhaustion, symptoms include dark urine, headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and cool, moist skin.
If it does escalate to heat stroke, individuals may have a fever above 104 degrees F, irrational behavior, seizures, shallow breathing, weak pulse and extreme confusion.
If you suspect a heat emergency, get out of the hot environment and go to a cool location. This can be a shady area or an enclosed area with air conditioning.
MedlinePlus recommended lying down and elevating your feet about 12 inches. Cool down the body by using cool compresses on the armpits, neck and groin. Use damp cloths and sheets, and spray cool water directly on the skin.
Rehydrating is important, but should be done if the individual is alert and is able to.
The MayoClinic.com recommended cool water or beverages that do not include alcohol or caffeine.
MedlinePlus recommended salted beverages (one teaspoon of salt for every quart of water), with a half a cup every 15 minutes.
If an individual is showing certain signs of heat stroke — fever above 102 degrees F, changes in alertness, loss of consciousness, rapid pulse or breathing — call 911. Also call 911 if symptoms do not improve or an individual’s condition gets worse.
There are things you should not do if you suspect a heat stroke. These include taking or giving an individual fever reducers, salt tablets or liquids that have caffeine or alcohol.
Do not rub alcohol on the individual’s skin. If an individual is vomiting or is not conscious, do not give her anything orally.
MayoClinic.com. Heatstroke: First Aid. Web. 18 July 2012
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Heat Emergencies. Web. 18 July 2012
Reviewed July 18, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith