What causes heat illness?
Extended exposure to hot temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses. This is due to the body trying to cool itself by rushing blood to the surface of your skin. Reduced blood flow to the brain muscles and other organs results in heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
- Dark-colored urine (which indicates dehydration)
- Muscle cramps
- Pale skin
- Profuse sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
If you or anyone else has symptoms of heat exhaustion, it's essential to immediately get out of the heat and rest, preferably in an air-conditioned environment. If you can't get inside, try to find the nearest cool and shady place. Other recommended strategies include:
- Drink plenty of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages
- Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing
- Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
- Apply other active cooling measures such as fans or ice towel
Dizziness and light-headedness
Lack of sweat despite the heat
Red, hot, and dry skin
Muscle weakness or cramps
Nausea and vomiting
Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
Rapid, shallow breathing
Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
If you suspect that someone has heat stroke, immediately call 911 or transport the person to a hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal.
- Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.
- Apply ice packs to the patient's armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.
- Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water or an ice bath.
If emergency response is delayed, call the hospital emergency room for additional instructions.
To avoid getting sick:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Use sun protection
- Remain cool and avoid overheating by staying in the shade