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Emergency Case

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How to Deal With Heat Related Illness

This month we are focusing on information related to safety and in particular, safety in the summer season such as when spending time in or around the water and with poison ivy and other plants.

When the weather is hot or you are physically heating up through exercise or other strenuous activity, you want to be careful and protect yourself from potentially life-threatening conditions such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and heat cramps.

Dr. Ferrara and Dr. Clinton Carter have discussed ways to avoid heat-related illnesses in past years, including staying well hydrated.

Watch Dr. Carter's heat-related illnesses video.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most severe of the heat-related illnesses and can be fatal. When the body’s cooling mechanisms are unable to keep up.  Symptoms include:

  • High body temperature
  • Hot, red, dry or damp skin
  • Fast strong pulse
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

What you should do if someone is experiencing what appears to be heat stroke:

  • Call 911 right away.
  • Move them to a cooler, shady place.
  • Use cool cloths or bath to bring down the person’s body temperature. In high humidity conditions, apply ice to the neck, armpits, and groin.
  • Do not give the person anything to drink.
  • Do not give aspirin or acetaminophen.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is caused when a person loses an excessive amount of salt and water.  If heat exhaustion is not controlled, it can progress to heat stroke so it is important to take the necessary steps to cool down and rehydrate.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting

What you should do if you or someone you are with is experiencing what appears to be heat exhaustion:

  • Cease physical activity and move to a cooler place.
  • Loosen clothing.
  • Sip cool water or other non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Cool down with wet cloths or a cool bath.
  • Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen, if there is vomiting, or if symptoms last longer than one hour.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps can occur when excessive sweating reduces salt levels in the body and causes muscle spasms, usually in the leg or abdominal muscles.

Symptoms of heat cramps:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Muscle pain or spasms

What you should do if you experience heat cramps:

  • Cease physical activity.
  • Move to a cooler location.
  • Drink cool water or a sports drink.
  • Stretch the affected muscles.
  • Seek medical attention if cramps last more than one hour, you are on a low sodium diet or if you have heart problems.

We want you to have an enjoyable summer while reducing your risk of the above illnesses.  Always remember to drink plenty of water, avoid the hottest part of the day if you can and protect yourself with sunscreen, loose clothing, and hats.