Too Hot to Handle

Major heat waves in July and probably this month put us at risk for more than feeling like we’re dying of heat. Extreme heat – like the triple digits we’ve seen – can sneak up on you and put you at risk for overheating to the point of developing heat illness. Many people confuse heat exhaustion with heat stroke, and while both are types of heat illness, their symptoms and treatments are different.

Heat Exhaustion Symptoms:

-Muscle pain or spasms
-Cold, pale, clammy skin
-Nausea or vomiting
-Muscle cramps
-Tiredness or weakness
-Dizziness, headache or fainting

What to do:
– Move to a cool place and loosen your clothes.
– Put a cool, wet cloth (not icy) on your body or take a cool bath.
– Sip water

See a Doctor if:

– You’re throwing up
– Your symptoms get worse
– If they last longer than 1 hour

If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, the most severe form of heat illness and one that is life-threatening. The body cools itself by sweating, which accounts for most of the heat loss. When a person becomes dangerously dehydrated, they do not sweat. Organs such as the liver, kidney, muscle and heart can suffer tissue damage.

Those most at risk for heat stroke include older people, young children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people with heart disease, high blood pressure or lung disease are most at risk.

Warning signs of Heat Stroke include:

-Body temperature of 103 degrees or more
-Hot, red, dry or damp (not sweaty) skin
– Dry swollen tongue
– Fast, strong pulse
– Throbbing headache, dizziness
– Nausea, confusion,
– Loss of consciousness

Preventing Heat Stroke

Eat smaller meals more often and cold meals such as salad.

-Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made of cotton and linen.

-Keep yourself cool by using wet towels.

Treating Heat Stroke

-Heat Stroke is a medical emergency, call 911.

-Do not give the person fluids to drink.

-Remove excess clothing and wet the skin with water or wrap in wet cloths, fanning continuously.

-Position an unconscious person on their side and clear their airway.

As you work or play outdoors, it’s important to drink water often. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
Avoid unnecessary hard work or exposure in the sun between the hottest times of the day, 11 am to 4 pm.

Medications and the Sun

Additionally, many common medications can prevent the body from responding appropriately to heat, increasing the risk for heat-related illnesses. They include migraine, allergy medications and some antidepressants. Phenothiazines and anticholinergics reduce sweating, a key tool in temperature regulation. Beta-blockers slow the blood flow to the skin. Stimulants used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy raise the body’s base temperature. Diuretics increase the risk of dehydration, a key factor in heat exhaustion. Other medicines that increase the risk of heat-related illnesses include benzodiazepines, calcium channel blockers, laxatives, anti-psychotic medications and thyroid agonists.