Virginia has seen a long streak of very hot weather recently. This isn’t unusual for our state in the middle of summer, but it is a good time for a reminder about heat-related illnesses. The CDC reports that over 600 people die of heat stroke each year in the United States. These deaths are preventable, so it’s important to take the proper precautions and know what the signs and symptoms are. Our heat stroke prevention guide will cover the basics of heat-related illness.
Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke
According to the CDC the category of heat-related illnesses includes both heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Many people don’t know the difference, or may not even know they are two different things. Simply put, heat exhaustion is a precursor to heat stroke. If you have symptoms of heat exhaustion you should take measures to cool down and rehydrate. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. If you have these symptoms you should see a doctor or visit the emergency room immediately.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Heavy sweating
- Cold or clammy skin
- Fast, weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
These symptoms can occur gradually or may be sudden, especially if you are exercising in the heat. If you or someone else exhibits these symptoms, it is imperative that you take measures to cool down immediately. If symptoms of heat exhaustion are ignored, it can turn into heat stroke.
Follow these steps to relieve symptoms of heat exhaustion:
- Move to somewhere cool right away
- Lie down and loosen or remove any constricting clothing
- Apply cool, wet cloths to your body
- Sip water
- If vomiting begins or continues, seek medical attention
If heat exhaustion is ignored or not recognized in a timely manner, the person may develop heat stroke. The symptoms of heat stroke include:
- A high body temperature, over 103°
- Hot, red dry or moist skin
- Rapid, strong pulse
- May lose consciousness
If you recognize the symptoms of heat stroke:
- Call 911 immediately. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and should be treated as such.
- While waiting for an ambulance, move the person to a cooler environment and apply cool, wet cloths.
- Do not give the person fluids. Wait for emergency services personnel.
Steps For Prevention
Obviously, the best course of action is to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke in the first place. Simply put, you should take measures to stay cool and hydrated when it’s hot outside. Infants, children, the elderly, and those with chronic medical conditions are most at risk for heat-related illness. Consider the following guidelines for yourself as well as friends and loved ones:
- Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.
- Make sure you have access to air conditioning and do not rely on fans alone to cool your home.
- Avoid direct sunlight. Find shade whenever possible if you are outdoors
- Wear lightweight clothing in light colors. White and other light colors absorb less heat than darker colors.
- Take cool showers or baths to keep your body temperature down.
- Make sure to check in on your at-risk friends and family members frequently.
- Stay hydrated. Drink more water than you normally would because you lose more fluids through sweat when it is hot.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink more water. It’s important to keep your body consistently hydrated, rather than trying to drink a lot at once.
- Avoid alcohol or drinks with high sugar content as they can be dehydrating.
The summer months can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to be informed and stay safe! Don’t forget to like and share!