How You Should Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses

Temperatures are going to be record high in North Carolina this weekend.  While the temperatures increase, it is important to increase the amount of fluids you drink, reduce your sun exposure and learn the signs of heat related illnesses and what to do if you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms.

What should I know about heat-related illnesses?

Basically, your body is too hot and you can’t cool down. These illnesses can be severe or mild. There are three kinds of heat illness: Heatstroke-the most severe and dangerous, Heat Exhaustion-the most common that we see in the clinics, and Heat Cramps: the mildest.

1.HEAT CRAMPS

You get cramps in the calf muscles and the abdomen (the so-called “stitch”). To prevent these you should stretch your muscles before exercise and drink plenty of fluids. Electrolyte solutions like sports drinks help replace lost salt.

2.HEAT EXHAUSTION

This is more advanced than cramps. Now you may feel dizzy, nauseated, fatigued, nervous, and confused. You need shade, air conditioning, cold water, cold wet towels on your body, and cool drinks. If confused or have a fever, someone should get you to the ER.

3. HEATSTROKE

This is life-threatening. Your temperature is high, you are confused, and you are hot but not sweating. Someone should call 911 right away. While waiting for the ambulance, treat as for heat exhaustion.

How can I prevent heat-related illnesses from happening?

Drink 1 to 2 cups of fluid before strenuous activity. Drink 2-4 cups of fluids per 1 hour of activity. You should exercise in the early morning or at night. Wear light clothes. Check the Heat Index Chart online.

How do you know if you are susceptible to heat-related illness?

Anyone is susceptible but some worse than others such as:

  • Those who drink alcohol in excess
  • Heart disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Those who are very young or very old
  • Fever
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Low in potassium
  • Obesity
  • Sunburn
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure
  • Uncontrolled thyroid problem
  • On medications: diuretic and sedatives
  • Drinking caffeine

 

What do I do if I experience heat-related illness?

Get out of the heat quickly and rest in a building that has air-conditioning.  If you cannot get inside with air conditioning, find a cool, shady place to rest. Drink plenty of water or other fluids.  Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks as these can make heat-related illnesses worse.  Take a cool shower or bath, or apply cool water to your skin.  Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing.

If you do not feel better within 30 minutes, you should visit an urgent care facility or emergency room.  If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can progress to heatstroke and be extremely damaging to your body. 

Written By – Ahana Muth

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