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Take Cover When Heat Is High

Get tips on how to prevent heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heatstroke.
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Heat Exhaustion

People suffer a heat-related illness when the body's temperature system is overloaded. The body is sweating, but the sweat is not evaporating due to humidity. Eventually, like a runny egg white, the brain begins to "cook."

The most common heat-related illness is heat exhaustion. This usually builds up over several days of activities in a hot environment, without proper replacement of fluids. Wham, it can hit you. The symptoms are:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Turning pale
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Fast breathing
  • Headache

To help the person, provide cool fluids immediately, anything nonalcoholic, but preferably water. Have the person lie down inside or take a cool bath or shower and then rest.

If the person's symptoms are severe or there are pre-existing medical problems, such as high blood pressureor heart disease, then you need to get medical attention right away.

In the ER, Bonanno says, they have sports drinks on hand. If the person is not sick enough to warrant an IV, they can sip the drinks in the waiting room.

Heatstroke

If someone experiencing heat exhaustion isn't treated (see below), it can progress to heatstroke, also known as sunstroke. This is very serious. Heatstroke occurs when the body simply cannot control its temperature anymore and the body's temp rockets to 106 degrees or higher within 10 minutes to 15 minutes. This can cause permanent brain damage or death if not treated immediately.

The symptoms of heatstroke are:

  • Extremely high body temperature of 103 degrees (by oral thermometer) or more
  • Red, hot, dry skin (lack of sweating)
  • Rapid, pounding pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

If someone faints or stops making sense near you:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • While the EMTs are en route, get the victim to a shady area or inside.
  • Get the person cool immediately. Do whatever you have to -- wet compresses, a cool shower, spray them with water from a hose, wrap in a cool, wet sheet and fan them.
  • If vomiting occurs, turn the person on the side.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are due to muscle spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs. This is usually a result of so much sweating that the body is low on sodium. People on a low-sodium diet have to watch for this.

People with heart problems or who are on low-sodium diets need to seek medical attention right away for heat cramps. If you or someone you know gets heat cramps, stop all activity and get inside. Drink a clear juice or sports drink (if you are on a low-sodium diet, check with the doctor first). Do not go back outside for several hours, even if the cramps subside, because further exertion could lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke. If the cramps last more than an hour, check with a doctor.

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