Heat Illness: Signs, Symptoms, & Prevention

After a long winter, the summer’s warmth is a welcomed friend for most people. Of course with all the sun and heat, people should be on higher alert for heat related illnesses. Heat stroke, sun poisoning, heat exhaustion and more pose serious health risks for the public. Although most people know they should stay hydrated and wear sunscreen, heat illness can still sneak up on you. In order to have a safe and fun time in the sun, you should familiarize yourself with the signs of heat illness. Catching someone’s signs early can help prevent a serious health situation or worse. This post will go over common heat illnesses and what you should watch out for so you can protect others. 

Why It’s Important

While it may be easier to keep little ones and elderly folks indoors and away from the heat, everyone else is not so easy. For this reason, more people need to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat illness. 

Unfortunately, every year around 600 Americans die due to heat stroke, the most severe case of heat illness, according to Business Insider.  Heat stroke and all heat related illnesses are preventable when people take precautions and recognize early signs. As you would expect, the groups who are most vulnerable to heat illness are elderly folks and babies/infants.

Sun Poisoning

If you have never had sun poisoning, consider yourself lucky and blessed. According to Healthline sun poisoning usually occurs when a person has been exposed to the sun’s rays for too long. While most people experience some form of sun-burn, most cases are mild and go untreated. However, sun poisoning happens when your skin is severely burned, leading to the following symptoms below.

  • Signs/symptoms: Severe skin pain, skin blistering/peeling, fainting, nausea, confusion, dehydration, dizziness
  • Treatment: See a doctor so they may diagnose and prevent further skin damage. A doctor will usually treat your skin with a cool compress, oral steroids or steroid cream, and lotions. 

Heat exhaustion

If you happen to reach the point of heat exhaustion, you should immediately stop whatever you were doing. Heat exhaustion is commonly known as the step before heat stroke, which we discussed earlier as fatal for some. A list provided by the Mayo Clinic below shows the symptoms of heat exhaustion. 

  • Signs/symptoms: Sweating heavily, weak-rapid pulse, clammy skin, nausea, heat cramps, lightheadedness, short of breath.
  • Treatment: Get to a cool area, drink cold water and apply it to skin, seek medical attention if the condition persists.

Heat Stroke

Hopefully you never reach this level of heat illness, because it can be fatal. Heat stroke is the result of ignoring early signs and symptoms combined with overheating. The human bodies regular temperature usually sits around 97-99 degrees fahrenheit. When someone’s body temperature rises above that to about 104 degrees or higher, they are at major risk. Although it’s unlikely that you are carrying a thermometer with you everywhere, catching early sings can prevent heat stroke. 

  • Signs/symptoms: mental confusion, slurred speech, unconsciousness, flushed skin, rapid heart beat combined with difficulty breathing.
  • Treatment: In all cases of heat stroke, seek immediate medical help. Similar to a heart attack, a heat stroke must be taken care of immediately. Before getting to medical help, attempt to cool down the victim with cool water, air conditioning, and other cooling techniques.  

Prevention:

Just about all heat related illness is preventable by keeping a couple key points in mind. Since the heat itself is the main contributor to heat illness, the obvious preventative measure to take would be staying cool. Well, that is not always possible, especially when it comes to exercise or labor. Instead, you should stay hydrated, keep skin covered by clothing or sunscreen, and monitor your body temperature. If you feel like you are heating up without any relief, stop what you are doing and cool off. You should keep the signs and symptoms of heat illness in the back of your head while outdoors, not only for yourself, but for others as well. 

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