With the arrival of late summer, it’s essential to know the signs of heat exhaustion and how to intervene before it escalates to a more severe condition like heat stroke, emergency medicine experts say.
Heat exhaustion comes with symptoms including: heavy sweating; breathlessness; a fast, but weak, pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea or vomiting.
“Heat exhaustion can happen to anyone overexerting themselves in extreme heat,” said Dr. Laura Burke, an emergency medicine physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “If symptoms are severe, call for medical help right away.”
Some people have an increased risk of heat exhaustion, including:
- People with heart disease or high blood pressure.
- People over age 65.
- Infants and children.
- People with sunburn, which impairs the cooling mechanism of the skin.
If heat exhaustion occurs and appropriate measures are not taken to cool down, it can sometimes escalate to a life-threatening condition called heat stroke.
“During heat stroke, the body can no longer cool itself down through sweating, which can result in damage to major organs,” Burke said in a hospital news release.
Symptoms of heat stroke include hot and dry skin, a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, headache, confusion and unconsciousness.
“If you see someone suffering from heat stroke, try to cool the person down by getting to shade or into the air conditioning. Apply cool water with wet cloths and call for medical help immediately,” Burke advised.
Here are some tips on how to stay cool, and prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke:
- Stay hydrated, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Dress in light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and cover up with a hat and sunscreen.
- Limit outdoor activity and avoid exercising outdoors during peak hours when temperatures are highest.
- Rest in shady areas.
- Take a cool shower, or place a cool washcloth on your forehead.
There’s more about heat-related illness at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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