Much of the United States is expected to experience a midsummer heat wave this weekend, subjecting millions of Americans to record-breaking temperatures.
With the heat index expected to surge past 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) this weekend, what can people do to avoid and protect themselves from getting heat exhaustion or heatstroke?
Heat Exhaustion And Heatstroke
Heat exhaustion is actually the precursor to heatstroke and happens as a result of overheating of the body. Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, dizziness, fatigue, rapid pulse, cold skin, nausea, muscle cramps, and headache, and these may occur over time or suddenly, particularly after prolonged exercise. If these symptoms are not addressed, heatstroke may follow.
Heatstroke occurs when a person’s body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). Apart from the high temperature, other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing and heart rate, and an altered mental state. Without emergency treatment, heatstroke could lead to death, as the brain, kidneys, muscles, and heart may be damaged at high temperatures.
One sign to watch out for to determine whether a person is suffering from heat exhaustion or from heatstroke is that a person suffering from heat exhaustion will sweat a lot, while someone already suffering from heatstroke has already stopped sweating.
Typically, heat exhaustion is not considered serious as long as it is controlled and treated within 30 minutes. But once the condition turns to heatstroke, it must be considered as a medical emergency.
Avoid, Spot, Treat
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three things to remember when it comes to heatstroke and heat exhaustion: avoid, spot, treat.
First of all, it is important to avoid exposure when the temperature is very high. It is better to stay indoors, but if one must really go outside, dressing properly with hats and light clothing as well as taking breaks are vital. It is also wise to keep drinking water, find air-conditioned places to stay at, and to remember to never keep kids or pets in a closed, parked car. In extreme heat conditions, it is also wise to avoid engaging in extreme exercise and consuming excess alcohol.
Children, older people, and those with chronic heart conditions are also more at risk of heat-related conditions, so it is important to keep a close eye on friends and loved ones in these categories. That said, anyone who is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion or heatstroke must immediately be given medical attention, especially those with heat problems or high blood pressure.
While waiting for proper health care personnel, the patient can be assisted by helping them to cool off. If the patient is suffering from heat exhaustion, they must be moved to an air-conditioned room and be made to wear light clothing. They must also rest and consume cold, non-alcoholic beverages and be given a cool sponge bath or shower.
If a person is suffering from heatstroke, they must immediately be moved to a shady area but not given fluids. To cool them down while waiting for medical attention, placing them in a cool bath, spraying them with a garden hose, fanning, and sponging with cool water are vital to lower their body temperature to 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.8 degrees Celsius).
In hot temperatures, the body may become unable to cool itself properly, and this could lead to serious heat-related health problems. To avoid these, it is important to remember safe steps to beat the heat and to keep an eye out for each other as it may just save a life.