Cool for the Summer

What you need to know about heat-related illnesses.

Stay cool, hydrated, and sun safe.

Spending too much time in hot weather can make you sick. – Most heat-related illnesses happens after being out in the hot weather too long. The body cools itself by sweating, but in hot and humid conditions, your temperature may rise faster than your body can cool down. This can lead to heat stroke, the most serious heat-related illness. You can stay safe by learning the signs of heat stroke, what to do if you or others develop symptoms, and how to prevent heat-related illnesses.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke happen if your body temperature rises to 104° F (40° C) or higher. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness. If heat exhaustion is untreated, it may progress to heat stroke. Heat exhaustion can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate intake of fluids. It is important to recognize its symptoms and how to prevent it.

What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?

According to the CDC, the warning signs of heat exhaustion include the following:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

The CDC recommends that you get medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour.

Who is at greatest risk for heat stroke?

Those most vulnerable to heat stroke and heat exhaustion include:

  • Adults 65 years and older
  • Infants and children four years and younger
  • People with chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure
  • People who are overweight
  • Those who work or exercise outdoors

Some medications increase the risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion because they can prevent sweating, reduce blood flow to the skin, or affect fluid balance in the body.

The risk for heat-related illness may increase among people using the following medications:

  • Certain medications for mental illnesses
  • Medications for Parkinson’s disease
  • Diuretic medications
  • Over-the-counter decongestants

Discuss your medications and the risk of heat-related illnesses with your pharmacist. Pharmacists are experts in drug information and can help identify and potentially prevent side effects.

How can I prevent heat stroke?

The CDC offers the following tips for staying safe and healthy in extreme heat, and for avoiding heat stroke. These tips can also help prevent heat exhaustion:

Keep cool. Air conditioning is the best way to protect against heat stroke. Stay in the shade, especially midday when the sun is the strongest. Fans can also help the body cool down more quickly and effectively.

Stay hydrated. Drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages and increase your fluid intake in hot weather regardless of your activity level. Do not wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking. If you’re on fluid restriction, you should check with your health care provider about how much fluid to consume.

Think safety. Never leave infants, children or pets in parked cars. Know the symptoms of heat stoke and heat exhaustion.

Be cautious when exercising or playing sports. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink enough non-alcoholic, cool fluids each hour so that you maintain your normal urine output and color.

Wear appropriate clothing. Choose clothing that is made of thinner, lighter materials to help the body stay cool.

Use sunscreen. Sunburn also causes you to lose fluids and affects your body’s ability to cool itself. Generously apply sunscreen to exposed skin at least 15 minutes before going outside, and reapply according to the instructions on the package.

References

US Centers for Disease Control. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Extreme Heat. https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/faq.html

US Centers for Disease Control. About Extreme Heat. https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.html

Mayo Clinic. Heat Stroke. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-stroke/symptoms-causes/syc-20353581

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