Heat-Related Illness: How to Beat the Summer Heat

As temperatures climb, so does the risk of serious heat-related illnesses. To make sure your day in the sun is nothing but fun you need to be aware of the various types of heat-related illnesses and how to avoid them!

Heat-related illnesses are caused by prolonged or intense exposure in hot temperatures. These illnesses can affect anyone, but are most common in children and the elderly.

There are 3 main categories of heat-related illness

  • Heat Cramps:

    The mildest of these illnesses are heat cramps. Heat cramps can strike when the body loses excessive amounts of fluids and salt, and is accompanied by the loss of other essential nutrients such as potassium and magnesium. These cramps often occur during or after physical exertion or exercise.

  • Heat exhaustion:

    Much like heat cramps, heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses large amounts of water and salt, but is more severe. If you experience heat exhaustion, it is because you are not adequately replacing lost fluids and if not treated, can progress to a heat stroke.

  • Heat strokes:

    The most serious of heat-related illnesses, heat strokes occur when the body suffers from long, intense exposure to heat and loses the ability to cool itself down. These can be life threatening and require medical attention immediately.

Symptoms to look out for include:

– Extreme thirst – Nausea or vomiting
– Fatigue – Dizziness or headaches
– Weakness – Hot, dry skin (no sweating)
– Clammy or pale skin – Rapid, shallow breathing

If you experience any of these, get to a cool place to rest and drink plenty of fluids.

By reducing excessive exposure to high temperatures and taking precautionary steps, most heat-related illnesses can be avoided. Prevention is your best defense in protecting your health when temperatures are extremely high. Remember to keep cool and use common sense. The following are some important prevention tips to keep in mind when the temperature rises:

– Drink plenty of fluids — regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty and don’t drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar—these cause you to lose more body fluids. Dehydration is the main contributor to heat related illnesses.

– Wear appropriate clothing— lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are best.

– Schedule outdoor activities carefully— plan your activities during morning or evening hours rather than during the sun’s peak times. Be sure to take breaks in a cool or shady location.

– Pace yourself— if you’re not accustomed to being in heat, don’t push your body to stay out in it all day.

Avoid Strenuous Activities on Extremely hot or Humid Days— Activities such as mowing the grass, gardening, or other physically exerting tasks, such as vigorous exercise, should be saved when the weather breaks or humidity lessens.

Although anyone can suffer from heat-related illnesses, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:

– Infants and young children

– People aged 65 or older

– Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure

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