Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

When summer comes, heat waves follow. Even though this is great for people with pools or who love to go to the beach, it can also be a dangerous time for being overcome by heat exhaustion or heat stroke. By following a few guidelines, these two concerns can be avoided or, if they do become an issue, how to recognize the signs.

Heat can be an issue for the elderly, disabled, young, ill, those that live alone or the overweight. However, anyone can be a victim if they overdo things during the heat of the day. Men generally sweat more than women, so they can become dehydrated quickly. Pets, horses, and other livestock are also susceptible. Animals do not sweat so they need panting, shade, drinking water, or wetting down to keep cool. Animals also cannot vocalize their needs, so their owners need to be aware of their needs.

Heat can kill living things by pushing the body beyond its limits. When there is extreme heat and high humidity, the evaporation that usually keeps the body working well, is slowed. When these conditions occur the body has to work harder to maintain normal temperatures.

Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is exposed to excessive heat when it is not used to it. This conditions happens at high body temperatures, usually less than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms are general and may be different in different people. These signs come on slowly and may include a headache, weakness, light headedness, muscle aches, muscle cramps and agitation.

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is a severe condition that occurs from high body temperatures, usually above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This high temperature can cause damage to many organs including the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord.  People suffering from this can have some of the same complaints as heat exhaustion along with confusion, hallucinations, bizarre behavior, seizure and coma. There are two categories of heat stroke: Exertional and classic.

Exertional heat stroke happen to people who are exercising in excessive heat. Their bodies cannot handle the heat and the physical activities.

Classic occurs with the elderly or those who have illness and stay in a warm environment for too long. The elderly body is not able to handle heat and there may be health issues which make them vulnerable to heat stroke. The elderly and the ill may also take meds that affect how the body copes with hot temperatures.

Lessen the Effects
Drinking water, not alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, helps to keep the body hydrated.

Try not to spend time outdoors between 11:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. These are the hours when the sunshine is strongest.

Wear light-weight, light colored, loose fitting cotton clothing. The light colors help reflect the sun and the cotton helps to pull the heat from the body.

If being outside cannot be avoided, then seek out shady places and wear a broad-brimmed hat or use an umbrella. Cool down by using water from a hose, pool or shower.

Seek out air conditioned rooms or buildings.

If a person collapses, cool them with a hose or a towel soaked in cold water and call 911.