Feeling the Heat?

A guide to key symptoms of heat-related illnesses and first-aid measures

(RxWiki News) Summer brings plenty of fun activities to enjoy outside, but without the proper precautions and first-aid knowledge, the heat can mean serious trouble.

When exposed to excessive heat, people are likely to experience hyperthermia, which means the body is overheated. This can cause heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat syncope and heat rash. Although immediate medical attention is not needed in many cases, some conditions can quickly become serious and even lead to death without proper first aid.

For a look at the various heat-related health conditions and how to administer proper first aid, see below.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke happens when the body loses the ability to regulate its temperature. The condition can cause death or permanent disability when not treated promptly.

  • Symptoms: Confusion, slurred speech, loss of consciousness and seizures
  • First Aid: After calling 911, all efforts should be put into cooling the person’s body temperature. These measures include moving the person to a cool area, loosening or removing clothes, fanning, and bathing with cold water or ice. Focus on cooling the head, neck, armpits and groin.

Heat Exhaustion

This condition occurs when someone loses too much water or salt in the body.

  • Symptoms: Headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, decreased urine output, heavy sweating and raised body temperature
  • First Aid: Reduce the person’s body temperature and provide liquids to drink. If symptoms do not improve within 60 minutes, accompany the person to a clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation.

Heat Cramps

When excessively sweating during strenuous activity, dehydration and depletion of the body’s salt can lead to heat cramps in the muscles.

  • Symptoms: Muscle spasms and pain in the abdomen, arms or legs
  • First Aid: Rest in a shady area. Drink water or other cool drinks like sports drinks. Medical attention is required if cramps last more than an hour.

Heat Syncope

Syncope is a temporary loss of consciousness. Heat syncope usually occurs when people stand for a long time or suddenly rise from a sitting or lying position when in the heat.

  • Symptoms: Fainting due to overheating
  • First Aid: Despite symptoms of dizziness, lightheadedness and temporary fainting, heat syncope is a mild heat illness that can be treated simply by resting in a cool place and drinking liquids.

Heat Rash

This occurs when excessive sweating irritates the skin.

  • Symptoms: Red clusters of pimples or small blisters in areas like the neck, chest, groin or elbow creases
  • First Aid: Move to a cooler, less humid environment and keep the area dry. Avoid using ointments and creams.

When performing physical activity in the heat, the body tries to cool down by sweating. However, what goes out must come back in, and that means the body needs water and salt. If these are not replenished in a timely manner and the body loses its ability to regulate heat, it can lead to various heat-related illnesses.

Speak with your health care provider for more tips on staying safe during the summer.