We’ve had our fair share of hot days already, but last week marked the official start of summer. As temperatures reach the triple digits, it’s important to learn how you can enjoy your time in the sun without risking heat exhaustion or a dangerous heat stroke. Take a look at common heat injuries, heat injury symptoms and how to protect yourself this summer.
This is one of the most common heat-related injuries. When we’re outside in the heat or participating in physical activities, we sweat. Although the sweat cools us down, it drains our body of necessary fluids and electrolytes. If we don’t replace those fluids, our bodies become dehydrated and highly susceptible to fatigue.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include:
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle cramps
If you exhibit any signs of heat exhaustion, move to a cooler area right away. Removing yourself from the heat will help your body replenish fluids and restore its normal working temperature.
Additional first-aid tips for heat exhaustion include:
- Loosen clothing
- Gently stretching cramped muscles
- Sipping cold water
- Applying cool cloths to the forehead and back of neck
- Lying down
Heat stroke is a severe form of heat exhaustion with wide-reaching complications. This condition is considered an acute medical emergency and should be treated by a physician as soon as possible. Heat stroke begins when the body reaches an internal temperature greater than 104˚F. At this temperature, the body cannot cool itself and vital organs and may shut down, causing nausea or even a coma.
Heat stroke symptoms include:
- Shallow breathing
- Hot, red skin
- Rapid pulse
Although anyone is susceptible to heat stroke, infants and adults over 65 carry a much greater risk of heat-related illness. If you suspect someone near you is experiencing heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Prolonging medical treatment can result in significant complications, such as fainting.
While you wait for medical attention, try these first-aid tips:
- Moving the victim to a cooler area
- Reduce body temperature with cool cloths
- Do NOT provide any fluids if the patient is unconscious
Preventing Heat Injuries
There are many precautions you can take to reduce your risk for a heat injury. First and foremost, always pace yourself during any physical activity in the heat and remember to break for water every 20-30 minutes. When outside, be sure to wear light, loose-fitting clothing in order to repel as much light as possible. Finally, schedule your activity around the coolest parts of the day and consider staying indoors during extremely hot conditions.