Record-breaking high temperatures continue to devastate many US cities! The National Weather Service has predicted that the dangerous heat presently smothering the southern U.S. and Florida will continue the next several weeks. Given this reality, it is imperative to know the key differences between heat-related illnesses and also how to cope with the unpleasant conditions.
As Floridians, extreme summertime heat is nothing we haven’t experienced before! However, the extended periods of continuous 100+ degree days have caused many of us to change our routines in order to tolerate the intense heat. In hot summer weather, we’ve all been taught to consume enough water to stay hydrated, and not over exert ourselves. But there is more that we can do! Heat cramps, and heat exhaustion are two type of illnesses, but there is also heat stroke! Knowing the differences in these illnesses, their respective symptoms and recommended treatments is essential.
Heat exhaustion is the resulting condition when our bodies overheat. Symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse. Heat exhaustion is one of three heat-related illnesses, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most serious.
Causes of heat illness include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when there is also high humidity, and strenuous physical activity. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition. Fortunately, heat exhaustion is preventable.
Heat cramps are often the first sign of a heat-related illness and can lead to heat exhaustion or stroke. Muscle cramps, spasms and heavy sweating are all related to heat cramps.
Heat exhaustion symptoms may develop over time or start rapidly and include dizziness, thirst, heavy sweating, nausea and weakness. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.
Heat stroke can be fatal or cause permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given. Confusion, dizziness, unconsciousness and a rapid pulse are symptoms that can be found alongside a heat stroke.
Because of the heat we are facing, taking proactive steps can help avoid or prevent facing heat exhaustion or worse!
If you must be outside, wear light-colored, cool clothing and drink plenty of water, wear a hat to keep the sun off your face, and (if possible) avoid being in the direct sun during peak hours.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion can be numerous and subtle! The most common ones are as follows.
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat.
- Heavy sweating.
- Weak, rapid pulse.
- Low blood pressure upon standing.
- Muscle cramps.
Tips for treating Heat Exhaustion –
- Stop all activity and rest.
- Move to a cooler place.
- Drink cool water or sports drinks.
Despite all of our best efforts, heat exhaustion can still occur! If you’re with someone who has heat exhaustion, seek immediate medical help if they become confused or distressed, lose consciousness, or are unable to drink. Also, if a person suffering heat exhaustion has a temperature of 104 or above, seek immediate medical attention!
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