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The Scary Truth of Heat-Related Illnesses

Avoiding Heat Stroke

As temperatures continue to rise, the risk of developing heat-related illnesses increases.  Every year, there are approximately 700 deaths, 9,200 hospitalizations, and 68,000 calls to emergency departments due to heat-related conditions. The most common type of illness is heat exhaustion and if left untreated, it could worsen to heat stroke.

What is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion occurs when physical activity is combined with hot temperatures and high humidity.  During this time, the body sweats, but the humidity prevents the sweat from being removed, which traps heat. This build-up of heat in the body can lead to heat exhaustion. There is an increased risk of developing heat exhaustion depending on age, previous medical conditions, etc. Risks of these illnesses can be higher depending on age, previous medical conditions, etc.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure but high pulse
  • Cold sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Muscle cramps

If any of these symptoms occur, it is important to take immediate action to avoid getting worse.  Focus on rehydrating the body as well as finding somewhere cool to relax while the heat is harsh.

How is Heat Stroke Developed?

Unfortunately, there are still times that we either ignore or don’t catch the symptoms of heat exhaustion in the body. When this happens, it has potential to worsen into a heat stroke. Compared to heat exhaustion, heat stroke is life-threatening and should be taken seriously. Heat stroke can cause organ failure and even death.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • Temperature higher than 103oF
  • Red, dry, and hot skin (no longer sweating)
  • Headache, confusion, and dizziness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling very dehydrated

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of heat stroke, the immediate response should be to call emergency services to get treated immediately. Considering that this is a life-threatening illness, total recovery time can last anywhere from 2 months to a year.

5 Tips to Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses:

While sometimes unavoidable, there are steps that can be done to avoid experiencing a heat-related illness.

  1. Hydrate

    Looking at hydration, this must be a top priority, especially when outside in hot and humid conditions. The CDC recommends that people drink one cup of water every 15-20 minutes, which will help combat dehydration and allow the body to sweat as necessary.

  2. Avoid Drinking Alcohol

    Drinking alcohol can cause the body to dehydrate, increasing the chance for a heat-related illness to occur. If possible, consider avoiding alcohol up to 24 hours before being outside to reduce the risk of dehydration.

  3. Choose Clothing Wisely

    When picking out an outfit, be mindful of the outdoor circumstances. Avoid tight clothing that restricts airflow and dark clothes that absorb the sunlight and warm the body quickly.

  4. Take Extra Breaks

    If you’re unable to avoid the heat altogether, try taking extra breaks to rehydrate and cool off. After heat exhaustion occurs, it can take as little as 10 – 15 minutes for heat stroke to occur. By understanding the serious nature of heat-related illnesses, you can accurately make the decision to pay attention to your body’s response.

  5. Use a Breathable Mask

    With masks being very prominent in everyday life, it is important that you own a breathable mask that does not restrict airflow. Wearing a mask that is not breathable produces the same effect as tight clothing. Including increased temperatures as well as absorption of heat through the mask.