As the summer months are fast approaching, the rising temperature and humidity may cause problems with the general population. In 2019, heatwaves affected more than 17 million people in the United States, forcing outside events like marathons and concerts to be postponed. The National Weather Services (NWS) recorded a heat index of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and warned citizens to be careful when going outdoors. It’s better to stay inside or consider purchasing campers to escape the searing sun when the adventuring spirit calls.
The prolonged exposure to soaring temperatures, especially during physical exertion, can cause the body to overheat, making a person prone to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heat stroke. The person’s biological systems for cooling down — sweating and increasing blood flow to the skin — cannot keep up with the rising body temperature. The elderly, young children, and people with chronic conditions are more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.
What are the symptoms?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat-related conditions are preventable with the right precautions and immediate care. Knowing the symptoms of each illness can help increase your chances of recovery.
First, heat cramps are the less serious of the bunch. These are caused by the loss of electrolytes due to excessive sweating. The person might feel muscle pain and spasms and should stop any physical activity. Drinking water or a sports drink while moving to a much cooler place can usually remedy the condition. But seek medical help if the cramps last longer than an hour and if you’re on a low-sodium diet or have any heart problems.
The second condition is heat exhaustion, which is a precursor to the more serious heat stroke. A person experiences heavy sweating, dehydration, and dizziness, and they may even pass out. Their body needs to cool down immediately. They should lie down, loosen their clothes, and raise their feet slightly while cooling their skin with cold packs or water. They should feel better within 30 minutes. If symptoms persist, call medical assistance to prevent escalation.
Untreated heat exhaustion can develop to heat stroke, which requires immediate emergency treatment. The high body temperature damages the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles, and it gets worse the longer medical attention is delayed. The person gets noticeably red and dry skin, with breathing and heart rate becoming rapid and shallow as the body tries to lower its internal temperature.
How to keep cool?
Given the risks hot weather poses, everyone should do their part in mitigating their chances of experiencing heat-related illnesses. Taking the following steps can help a person stay cool for the summer:
- Drink plenty of water – Always stay hydrated to help the body replenish liquid it loses through sweating. Drink more than six to eight glasses of water and avoid alcohol, which increases the risk of dehydration.
- Limit strenuous activity – Schedule any physical exertion during the cooler parts of the day, like in the early morning or at night. If possible, avoid it altogether until the heatwave passes.
- Wear loose and lightweight clothing – Excess and fitting clothing will make it harder for the body to breathe and regulate its temperature.
- Don’t leave anyone in a parked car – When parked under the sun, the temperature inside the car can rise to 20 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes. It is not safe even if you parked the vehicle in the shade, or the windows are open.
With these bits of information, you can lower your risk or that of your loved one of developing heat stroke this summer.