There’s no way around it: You’re going to be exposed to hot and humid conditions this summer, and as a result, you’ll be at risk of heat-related illness.
Just as with any potential health complication, knowing the warning signs and symptoms will help you fend off a serious medical emergency.
The three most common heat-related illnesses carry different levels of severity. Here’s a breakdown on each:
The loss of body salts and fluid from sweating can lead to heat cramps, in which the patient may feel muscle spasms and pain in the abdomen, arms or legs.
This is best treated with a period of rest and cooling down.
Hydrate with clear juice or a sports beverage, and don’t return to your strenuous activity in the sun until a few hours after the cramps subside.
A more extreme response to the body’s loss of water and salt from sweating is heat exhaustion. When suffering from heat exhaustion, a person may experience nausea, weakness, headaches, heavy sweating, thirst and vomiting.
If someone you know is suffering from heat exhaustion, remove them from the sun and place them in a shaded area. Provide water or other beverages for hydration, and apply ice packs if available.
If symptoms worsen or condition doesn’t improve within 60 minutes, it’s time to take the person to an emergency room.
This is the most serious of heat-related illnesses and it’s a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately.
Heat stroke occurs when the body isn’t able to regulate its temperature; sweating stops and so does the body’s ability to rid it of excess heat.
Loss of consciousness, confusion and seizures are all symptoms of heat stroke. While waiting for medical help to arrive, fan air on the person and place cold packs in his or her armpits, if possible. Wet the patient with cool water, apply ice if it’s available. Provide water as soon as possible.
Of course, the best way to avoid any heat-related illness is to be smart when you’re going out in the sun. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration centers its advice for preventing heat illness around three words — Water, Rest and Shade:
- Water – Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you’re not thirsty.
- Rest – Take it easy on your first days of work in the heat so you can let your body get used to it.
- Shade – Rest in the shade to cool down.