Hot weather is certainly here and with it comes the risk of heat illnesses. The good news is that these illnesses can be prevented by simple precautions. These precautions include: drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after activities; limiting exposure to the sun and heat; avoiding dietary supplements that contain caffeine before exposure to heat, during heavy exercise, or for a prolonged period. Dietary supplements that contain caffeine may cause the body to get rid of fluids increasing the risk of a heat illness.
Dehydration is the most common of heat illness. It is caused by a loss of body fluids. During hot weather, this loss occurs from sweating. Symptoms include thirst, headaches, and fatigue. Prevent dehydration by replacing lost body fluids with water. Some sports drinks are also good to use. However, reduce or eliminate consumption of coffee, tea, or soft drinks that contain caffeine and alcohol because they may cause the body to get rid of fluid instead of retaining it. First aid is to rest in a cool place and drink water to replenish lost fluids. Always seek medical treatment.
Heat cramps is another heat illness. These cramps affect the body’s major muscles like the abdomen, thighs, and back. Heat cramps often occur as a result of prolonged action on a hot day with the loss of body fluids. Symptoms include sharp pain that is not caused by a pulled or strained muscle and persistent muscle contractions during and after activity. First aid is to take in fluids (unless the victim is vomiting), loosen clothing, and rest in a shady area. Always seek medical treatment.
Heat exhaustion is a more severe heat illness and can occur when people continue to be active during hot weather and lose a large quantity of body fluid. Symptoms include light-headedness, fainting, loss of coordination, heavy sweating, pale skin, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, or persistent muscle cramps. First aid is to consume fluids (unless the victim is vomiting), loosen clothing, and rest in a shady area. Always seek medical treatment.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat illness and is considered life threatening. Symptoms include dizziness, weakness, nausea, headache, cramps, and cold and damp skin. These symptoms signal a failure of the body’s heat-regulating system. First aid is to obtain emergency medical treatment as quickly as possible. While waiting for emergency medical treatment give the victim water to drink (unless the victim is vomiting or unconscious), loosen clothing, and rest victim in a shady area.
Heat illnesses are very serious and medical treatment should always be given to a victim. Don’t trust your judgment; let a doctor decide how serious the illness is.