|Lori M. Noble, MD|
As the summer heat beats down, though, it can sometimes seem like it’s impossible to stay cool. Not only can it be uncomfortable, but in some cases, it can actually be serious or even life-threatening. It is important to be able to recognize the signs of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and to know how to treat and prevent them.
Heat exhaustion is due to either not having enough water or salt in the body, both of which come from a combination of excess sweating and lack of hydration. Common symptoms that you should be on the lookout for include:
- Pale skin or cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Muscle cramps
- Heavy sweating
- Dark-colored urine, (a sign of dehydration)
- Rapid heartbeat
The common symptoms of heat stroke are:
- Body temperature over 105° F
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Lack of sweating despite the heat
- Red, hot and dry skin
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat (which may be either strong or weak)
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Behavioral changes (such as confusion, disorientation or staggering)
Preventing heat-related illness is just as important as being able to recognize and treat the common symptoms. Children under age four and adults over 65 or with chronic medical illnesses (like heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, and diabetes) are at increased risk for both heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so be sure to check in on your loved ones during these hot summer months.
When the temperatures soar above 90 degrees, encourage people without air conditioning to go to a public place that does have air conditioning, like a shopping mall or senior center.
Finally, keep plenty of water on hand and always wear loose, breathable clothing.
Taking these simple steps can help insure that you and your loved ones have a healthy, happy summer.