With summer in full swing, high temperatures and humidity are prevalent. While this means more time at the beach and the pool, it can also quickly end a fun day in the sun. When it’s over ninety degrees, the risk of heat-related illnesses increases dramatically.
Heat stress can also be an issue for those who work in extremely hot environments. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends controlling heat stress, training, acclimation, hydration and rest breaks to prevent occupational illnesses and injuries related to heat.
Extreme heat can lead to serious medical conditions such as heat exhaustion or stroke. Whether you’re hard at work or exercising outdoors, it’s important to know how to prevent, recognize, and treat heat-related illnesses.
The body has its own built-in cooling system: sweat. But like the ac in your car on a hot day, the cooling system can only do so much and can eventually break down. With excess sweating from high heat comes loss of water or salt - both of which can lead to heat exhaustion. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, those who experience heat exhaustion can show signs of confusion, dizziness, fatigue, fainting, headache, nausea and heavy sweating, among others. The key to treating heat exhaustion is cooling and hydrating. If this doesn’t work within fifteen minutes, emergency help should be requested. Get more information about heat exhaustion here.
When the body isn’t able to control its temperature and can no longer cool down, it causes heat stroke, which can be fatal. Headache, dizziness, lack of sweating, nausea, fainting, unconsciousness and extremely high body temperature are markers for this serious illness. Due to the severity of heat stroke, emergency care is necessary in addition to cooling down the victim until the medical team arrives. Read more about heat stroke here.
Preventing heat-related illnesses is a much better option than treating them after the fact. Here are a few steps you can take to prevent heat stress from setting in:
- Wear loose fitting clothes
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Rest often
- Take advantage of shade
- Stay inside if possible
While children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illness, everyone is at risk. So, it’s important for each of us to take preventative steps and to stay alert to the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
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