The summer season is in full swing, and that means camps, outdoor workouts and athletic practices, trips to parks or local waterways, and dozens of other fun outdoor activities for you and your family. It also means you need to watch out for one of Mother Nature’s most dangerous elements: HEAT.
“Summer is such a fun time of year, but it is also dangerous because people can quickly become overheated,” said Dr. Daniel Wehner, Emergency Medicine physician, Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center. “We really encourage our patients to know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. If people know what to watch for, they can catch potential problems earlier and start cooling the body down before any serious complications occur.”
As noted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), muscle cramping – or heat cramps – is often the first sign of heat-related illness and may lead to a more serious condition, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Below are other important signs and symptoms, actions to take if you or someone you encounter is experiencing a heat-related illness, and tips to help you beat the heat.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses a considerable amount of water and salt and begins to have trouble cooling itself. If left untreated, heat exhaustion could lead to heat stroke, which is why it is important to know the signs and symptoms. They are:
Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness, requiring immediate medical attention. Heat stroke occurs when the body has lost excessive water and salt, and has become overwhelmed by the heat, no longer able to cool itself. Signs and symptoms include:
Heat stroke can be fatal if treatment is delayed. If you or someone you encounter is experiencing a heat-induced illness, you should:
Wehner says people can be smart during outdoor activities by drinking plenty of water, seeking shade and taking regular breaks during rigorous exercise. It’s best to drink plenty of fluids prior to working or exercising in a hot environment, then drink water or a balanced electrolyte regularly and often. Furthermore, outdoor activities can be limited to mornings and afternoons, when the sun isn’t out in full force. Wehner also says knowing the aforementioned signs and symptoms is critical.
“The best way to prevent heat-related illness is to know when to stop,” said Wehner. “Often people start to feel mild symptoms but think they can just ‘push through’ the pain. It’s important for people to listen to their bodies and always pay attention to those around them, especially coaches, athletic trainers and others who lead group activities.”
To learn more about heat-related illness, visit http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat.