The body naturally manages changes in temperature, specifically hotter weather, by sweating; that is until it is exposed to more heat than it can handle. Summer heat can be unpredictable, and when those heat waves come, everyone becomes at risk of illness and even death.
Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are serious illnesses that come on suddenly due to exposure to high temperatures.
Heat exhaustion can result when the body loses an excessive amount of water and salt from sweating. The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Fatigue, weakness
- Dizziness or fainting
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pale, moist skin
- Muscle cramps
- Rapid heart rate
When heat exhaustion becomes uncontrolled and severe, heatstroke can occur. The signs and symptoms of heatstroke include:
- Irregular or belligerent behavior
- Confusion or altered mental state
- Headache or dizziness
- Rapid breathing
- A body temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Flushed skin that is dry and hot to the touch (due to lack of sweating)
- Convulsions or unresponsiveness
Staying Safe in the Heat
The best way to prevent heat-related illnesses is to reduce your exposure to heat, especially on high-temperature days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are some important heat safety tips:
- Stay cool indoors as much as possible – Remain in air-conditioned, indoor spaces as much as you can. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, spend time at locations such as libraries or shopping malls that do avoid intense heat exposure.
- Wear appropriate clothing – Opt for lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothes.
- Limit your outdoor activity – Only engage in outdoor activity during cooler times of the day, such as morning or evening.
- Pace yourself – If you’re not accustomed to a hot environment, don’t push yourself in the heat.
- Wear sunscreen – Sunburn prevents the body from cooling down, so when outdoors, protect yourself against the sun’s harmful rays with sunscreen and reapply every two hours.
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water throughout the day; don’t just wait until you’re thirsty.
- Remain informed – Keep an eye on your local news for extreme heat alerts in your area and where cooling shelters are located near you.
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