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Heat Illness: Staying Aware of Your Health in the Face of Extreme Heat

Updated on May 9, 2019
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Mahogany Speaks is a nurse with 20 yrs of exp. in healthcare & 14+ yrs in Blogging. She has an MBA in HCM & owns an article writing svc co.

Heat illness can occur at any time during summer months. This season can bring extreme heat in some parts of the country leading to the risk for heat stress, heat injuries, and even death. According to the National Safety Council, in 2017, 87 people died in the United States as a result of exposure to excessive heat.

Unfortunately, people do not always recognize the signs or symptoms of heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. These symptoms can occur rapidly without much warning.

Signs of Heat Illness

Heat illness occurs when the body is unable to cool and/or regulate its core temperature. Typically, the body sweats under extreme heat conditions but on occasion, sweating just isn't enough. This is particularly true during humid conditions. Even when temperatures are relatively low for summer months, humidity can have an adverse impact on the body.

Type of Heat Illness
Signs and Symptoms
Action Required
Heat Cramps
Pain that emerges in the presence strenuous exercise or activity in the heat
Cramps in the arm, legs, or stomach
Move to a cool or air conditioned space. Stop the activity. Drink fluids that are high in sodium like a sports drink to replace electrolyte loss. Observe for changes in condition.
Heat Exhaustion
Occurs when there is a loss of both sodium and/or liquid
Thirst, weakness, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps
Remove or loosen tight clothing, apply cool compresses or towels. If the individual is alert, give a cool (not too cold) drink like water or a sports drink. Consumption of 1/2 liter every 30 minutes is acceptable. Remember to avoid caffenated or alcoholic beverages if possible. Move to a cool or air conditioned space.
Heat Stroke
Occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature
Throbbing headache, dizziness, red/dry hot skin or profuse sweating, confusion or passing out, body temp over 103 degrees F.
Get this individual immediate medical attention. Reduce body temperature. Cool bath. IV fluids may be required.

What Medications Increase the Risk for Heat Injury?

According to the CDC, there are a few medications that may increase your susceptibility for heat illness and injury including:

  • Psychotropics
  • Parkinson's Disease Medications
  • Diuretics or "water pills"
  • Tranquilizers

How to Prevent Heat Injury and Heat Stress

You have the power to take control of your body's welfare during summer months to prevent heat injury or stress from occurring. Organizations such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommend that we take the following precautions:

  • Dress in or wear light clothing
  • Avoid or limit alcohol or sugary drinks
  • Try to restrict intense exercise activities to the cooler hours of the day such as the early morning or late evening hours
  • Stay well-hydrated before, during and after activity. A good indicator of hydration is the color of your urine. Dark urine or urine that is the color of apple juice is a good indicator that you are dehydrated while urine that is the color of lemonade or brighter is a sign of hydration.
  • Do not leave infants, children or pets in closed, parked cars
  • Take advantage of air-conditioned buildings or spaces
  • If there is time, spend 14 days acclimating to the weather

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2014 Mahogany Speaks


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