How To Recognize, Prevent And Treat The Symptoms Of Heatstroke
With the daily local heat index still reaching triple digits, it's important to take precautions to prevent heat-related illness. And when it comes to heat-related illness, it's important to act quickly. Here are some tips from GoodRx on preventing and treating the dangerous condition.
In the warmer weather months, we tend to spend more time under the hot sun. But when we've been exposed to high temperatures for long periods of time or participate in physical activity in the heat, the outcome could be extremely dangerous, resulting in a heat-related illness.
Heat-related illness — also known as hyperthermia — happens when the body is exposed to heat and can't cool itself effectively. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the most serious heat-related conditions. Without treatment, heat stroke can be life-threatening and cause lasting damage to vital organs.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent heat-related illness. It's also important to know the signs, symptoms, and causes of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so you can act quickly, provide first aid and get help right away if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms. Here are helpful tips you can follow to prevent and treat heat-related illnesses.
What Causes Heat-Related Illness?
When you're outside in the heat, your body usually cools itself by sweating — but sometimes, that's not enough. Environmental factors such as extreme heat and high humidity can make it more challenging to regulate the body's temperature. You may also be at a greater risk for heat-related illness if you have a pre-existing medical condition (heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes), you take medications that remove extra water from the body or you are younger than 4 or older than 65.
Know the Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion
Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness could help prevent a life-threatening problem. If you can identify the signs, you'll be able to help treat the illness, as well as know when to call for medical help.
It's also important to know that dehydration could increase the risk of a heat-related illness. With dehydration, you may experience symptoms such as thirst, less urination, dry mouth and headache. If you're dehydrated, it's important to be on the lookout for heat exhaustion and heat stroke symptoms. They can range from mild to severe — and quickly turn into a life-threatening problem.
Common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Muscle cramping
- Heavy sweating with cold or clammy skin
- Pale skin color
- Nausea or vomiting
- Faster and weaker pulse than usual
- Feeling weak, dizzy, or light-headed
Common signs and symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Hot, dry, red skin
- Dizziness or confusion
- Faster and stronger pulse than usual
- Body temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher
- Loss of consciousness
Treatment Options for Heat-Related Illness
Heat-related illnesses are extremely serious, so if you think someone has heat exhaustion or heat stroke, it's important to act quickly. Getting treatment as early as possible increases the likelihood a person will recover. Here are some ways to treat heat exhaustion and heat stroke:
- Stop all activity.
- Loosen clothing and remove extra layers.
- Find shade, ideally indoors with air conditioning.
- Cool the skin with a moist cloth, bath or shower.
- Take sips of water.
If symptoms seem to be getting worse, last longer than one hour or if you get sick to your stomach or throw up, you should seek medical help immediately. Call 911 and follow the steps outlined above. Once help arrives, they'll be concentrated on cooling your body temperature and hydrating with IV fluids.
Take Steps to Prevent Heat-Related Illness
While heat-related illnesses are very dangerous, they're also preventable. Overheating is more likely to occur when a person is dehydrated; so by keeping up with fluids you can decrease your risk of dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking these precautions can also help decrease your risk of heat-related illness:
- Avoid being outdoors and exercising during the heat of the day.
- Stay out of direct sunlight if possible.
- Wear lightweight and light-colored, protective clothing (hat, pants, shirt, sunglasses).
- Apply broad-spectrum, waterproof sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every two hours.
- Drink water and fluids with electrolytes before you become thirsty.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
- Eat salty foods.
- Be on the lookout for warning signs of heat-related symptoms.