Heat-related illnesses occur when your body cannot properly cool itself, and your internal temperature reaches a dangerous level. Naturally, your body produces sweat, which cools your skin as it evaporates. However, on hot, humid days, the increased moisture in the air makes this process less effective, often leading to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.
Description. Heat exhaustion is most often caused by exercise and dehydration. Your skin becomes cold to the touch even though you feel hot. If you continue to exert yourself you will likely experience nausea, dizziness, and a headache. It is vitally important to recognize these symptoms and get out of the sun and heat as soon as possible to avoid heat stroke, which is much more serious.
Signs. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Cold, pale, clammy skin
- Fast, weak pulse
Treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion, move to a cool place, out of the sun, and loosen your clothes. Place cool, wet washcloths on your body or take a cool bath. Slowly sip cool water. Get medical help if you are throwing up or have symptoms that worsen or last longer than an hour, as these are indications of heat stroke.
Description. Heat stroke is when your internal temperature reaches 104°F. At this temperature your organs begin to fail if the body is not cooled quickly. It is referred to as heat “stroke” because it can cause the brain to swell, resulting in permanent damage or even death.
Signs. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Body temperature at or above104°F
- Hot, red skin
- Fast, strong pulse
- Lack of sweating
- Loss of consciousness
Treatment. Call 911 immediately, heat stroke is a medical emergency. Move the person to a cooler place and lower their body temperature with cool cloths until help arrives. Do not give the person anything to drink.
Heat-related illnesses can lead to serious symptoms and ultimately be fatal if not treated properly. Take precautions when you will be outside for long periods in hot or humid weather – wear lightweight clothing and drink lots of fluids. If you find yourself or someone with you experiencing the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, take actions to lessen their symptoms and seek medical attention. Remaining aware of your condition and knowing when to seek help can prevent permanent damage.
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