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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Heat-related illness

With a good portion of the country baking under extreme heat, I wanted to post some information on heat-related illness. It is vitally important to be aware of the signs of heat-related illness, because if ignored, it may lead to death.

Before I get to the specific conditions, I just want to make some observations on some heat-related stories I’ve heard over the years. Every year you hear about people who, for some unknown reason, thoughtlessly leave a child or a pet in a sweltering car. It only takes a few minutes for the temperature inside a car to reach dangerously high levels so UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES leave a child or a pet in a locked car in hot weather. (You shouldn’t leave a child alone in a car in any weather!) Make sure you have plenty of water with you if you have to be outside for extended periods of time in hot weather. Also, make sure you wear a hat, use sunscreen and cover as much of your body as possible with lightweight clothing to protect from the dangerous rays of the sun.

Now here is the information on heat-related illnesses:

Heat-related illnesses include:

-Heatstroke - a life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 106° F in minutes; symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse and dizziness

-Heat exhaustion - an illness that can precede heatstroke; symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse

-Heat cramps - muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise

-Heat rash - skin irritation from excessive sweating




Skin redness and pain, possible swelling, blisters, fever, headaches



Painful spasms, usually in leg and abdominal muscles; heavy sweating

First Aid:

-Get the victim to a cooler location.
-Lightly stretch and gently massage affected muscles to relieve spasms.
-Give sips of up to a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes. (Do not give liquids with caffeine or alcohol.)
-Discontinue liquids, if victim is nauseated.



Heavy sweating but skin may be cool, pale, or flushed. Weak pulse. Normal body temperature is possible, but temperature will likely rise. Fainting or dizziness, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, and headaches are possible.

First Aid:

-Get victim to lie down in a cool place.
-Loosen or remove clothing.
-Apply cool, wet clothes.
-Fan or move victim to air-conditioned place.
-Give sips of water if victim is conscious.
-Be sure water is consumed slowly.
-Give half glass of cool water every 15 minutes.
-Discontinue water if victim is nauseated.
-Seek immediate medical attention if vomiting occurs.

HEAT STROKE (a severe medical emergency):


High body temperature (105+); hot, red, dry skin; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid shallow breathing. Victim will probably not sweat unless victim was sweating from recent strenuous activity. Possible unconsciousness.

First Aid:

-Call 9-1-1 or emergency medical services, or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
-Move victim to a cooler environment.
-Removing clothing
-Try a cool bath, sponging, or wet sheet to reduce body temperature.
-Watch for breathing problems.
-Use extreme caution.
-Use fans and air conditioners.

(First Aid tips from Are You Ready? Extreme Heat (FEMA)

Here are some links to other great resources on heat-related illness:

Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Heat Stress Resources for Workers (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)

Heat Index (National Weather Service)

Heat Stress in the Elderly (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Keep It Cool in Hot Weather (National Institutes of Health)

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