It’s another beautiful, sunny weekend in Texas and you are ready to get out of the house. You pack your beach bag for a fun day at the lake or grab your kayak for a paddling adventure down the river.
But, a fun day in the sun could result in a trip to the doctor if you don’t prepare properly. Heat-related illnesses are caused by extreme heat or temperatures that are much hotter or more humid than average summertime temperatures.
Heat-related illnesses occur when the body is not able to properly cool itself through its normal cooling procedures, like sweating. As a result, the body’s temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. This can cause damage to one’s organs and even the brain.
Below is a list, provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, of common heat-related illnesses, their symptoms and what to do if you or someone you are with is experiencing the listed symptoms:
- Heat Stroke
- What to look for: High body temperature; hot, red, dry or damp skin; fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; passing out.
- What to do: Call 911 immediately. Move the person to a cooler place and help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths. Do not give the person anything to drink.
- Heat Exhaustion
- What to look for: Heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; tiredness or weakness; dizziness; headache; fainting.
- What to do: Move to a cool place immediately. Loosen your clothes or put cool, wet cloths on your body. Sip water as you cool down. Seek medical attention if you’re throwing up or if your symptoms get worse and last longer than an hour.
- Heat Cramps
- What to look for: Heavy sweating during intense exercise; muscle pain or spasms.What to do: Stop physical activity and move to a cool place immediately. Drink water or a sports drink. Wait for cramps to go away before continuing with any more physical activity. If the cramps last longer than an hour, seek medical attention.
- What to look for: Painful, red and warm skin; blisters
- What to do: Stay out of the sun until your sunburn heals. To relieve the burn, put cool cloths or moisturizing lotion on sunburned areas. Do not break blisters.
- Heat Rash
- What to look for: Red clusters of small blisters that look like pimples on the skin.
- What to do: Stay in a cool, dry place. Keep the area dry and use powder to soothe the rash.
According to the CDC, individuals who are most at risk for heat-related illnesses are older adults, young children and those with mental illness or chronic diseases. However, anyone can be affected if they participate in activities during hot weather.
Even though heat-related illnesses are common, they are preventable. To combat the heat, summertime activities must be balanced with actions that cool the body down. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks to help keep your cool during the summer months.
- Stay Cool
- Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing.
- Stay in air-conditioned places as often as possible. Take a cool shower or bath if needed.
- Schedule your outdoor activities during the coolest times of the day, like the morning or evening hours.
- Rest in shaded areas when needed.
- Pace yourself during physical activities in the heat.
- Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
- Stay Hydrated
- Drink a lot of water and stay away from sugary drinks or alcohol. If you are going out on a boat, be sure to pack enough water for everyone.
- Replace salt and minerals by drinking a sports drink, as heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced.
- If you take your pet outside, make sure they stay hydrated too.
- Stay Informed
- Check for extreme heat alerts from local news sources.
- If you are visiting a new area, check to see if there any air-conditioned public buildings that you can utilize.
- Familiarize yourself with heat-related illnesses and their symptoms.
- Monitor those at high risk if they are outdoors in extreme heat.