How to Spot and Prevent Heat-related Injuries

As the summer months roll on, the warm temperatures do, too. During this time, everyone, no matter the age, needs to be aware of the serious dangers that the intense heat can cause. The first step of ultimately being prepared is being well informed, as we follow out the tips and tricks to do just that from Dr. LouAnne Giangreco.

When talking about heat-related illnesses, it’s important to note the two different types: exertional and non-exertional.

 

Exertional Heat Illness

Those susceptible to exertional heat illness are among the most young and healthy who engage in heavy, steady exercise during the warm months. These active individuals – sometimes athletes, workers in hot environments or military recruits – can overwork themselves to the point of severe illness.

Some of the risk factors include a lack of acclimatization. Typically, the body adapts over several weeks of exercise in the heat to compensate for the warm temperatures to increase sweat production, plasma and will have a lower threshold for sweat. The trouble comes when the body cannot perform these functions properly and does not adapt. Other contributors to this are:

-Low physical fitness

-Obesity

-Extended alcohol use

-Dehydration

-Infection

-Some medications, like antihistamines and decongestants

-Sweat gland dysfunction

and more

To prevent this type of heat illness, be sure to take frequent breaks, drink plenty of hydrating fluids like water or sports drinks, exercise early in the day, wear appropriate clothing, and pace your activity to build up your fitness to acclimate your surroundings.

 

Non-exertional Heat Illness

 This type of serious illness effects those who are at the extreme spectrum of ages with chronic medical conditions. Those most susceptible may be unable to remove themselves from a hot environment, or may have conditions or medications that prevent their bodies from appropriately regulating the temperatures.

Some of the risk factors associated with this type of heat-related illness have to do with age – especially those over 70 or under 4 – and cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, infection, sweat gland dysfunction, psychiatric illness, obesity and more.

There are many ways to prevent this type of non-exertional heat illness, which include:

 

-Staying in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible

-Not relying on a fan as the only means of cooling during the extreme weather

-Drinking more water than usual

-Ensuring that someone is available to check on you

-Using showering as a cool-down method

-Wearing light-colored, lightweight clothing that is appropriate for the heat

-Avoiding use of the stove or oven

 

Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke

The extreme heat can also pose a threat of heat exhaustion. This type of ailment can present itself with heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and ultimately fainting.

If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, you should stop all activity and drink water or other low-sugar, non-alcoholic beverages. Try taking a cool shower right away as an avenue to cool down, and if your symptoms last for longer than an hour, seek immediate attention.

If some of the signs are more serious, you may be experiencing a heat stroke. This condition will show signs of a body temperature 104 degrees or higher, confusion, hallucinations, fainting, red and hot skin, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness or cramping. A heat stroke is a severe medical emergency and requires a call to 911.

While waiting for the proper aid, there are some things you can do:

-Move them to a shady area.

-Cool the person as quickly as possible with a spray or sponge. If possible, place them in a cool tub of water, or wrap them in a wet sheet, then fan the person while wet.

-Place cold packs in the individual’s neck, armpits and groin.

 

We hope you’ll stay safe during these warm summer months. For all your non-life-threatening medical needs that happen this summer, call or walk into your local Five Star Urgent Care facility.