The weather continues to get warmer, and it won’t be long until the intense summer heat is upon us. Do you know the difference between the three common heat-related illnesses? Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with the different symptoms and how to treat them in case you ever have to.
This is the least serious of the heat-related illnesses. Heat cramps are muscle spasms that happen in the abdomen, arms, or calves and are often caused by a loss of water and salt. Symptoms include
- Heavy sweating during intense exercise
- Muscle pain
- Muscle spasms
If you or someone you are with experience heat cramps, stop physical activity and move to a cool place. Drink water or a sports drink and wait for cramps to go away before resuming activity. Get medical help if cramps last longer than an hour.
Heat exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps and can lead to heatstroke if not treated quickly. Heat exhaustion develops when exposed to high temperatures (especially with high humidity) and strenuous physical activity. Symptoms include:
- Heavy sweating
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Muscle cramps
If you or someone you are with begins experiencing these symptoms, move to a cool place and loosen clothing. Cool, wet cloths on the body or misting and fanning can help cool the person. Take sips of water or a sports drink. Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or don’t improve within one hour.
Heat stroke is the most serious of the heat-related illnesses. It is a serious medical condition caused by extreme heat and requires emergency treatment. If left untreated, heatstroke can quickly damage the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. The longer the delay in seeking medical assistance, the worse the damage can become, increasing the risk of serious complications or death. Symptoms include:
- High body temperature (104 or higher)
- Altered mental state or behavior (for example, confusion, agitation, slurred speech, etc.)
- Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Racing heart rate
- Rapid breathing
If someone you are with is experiencing heatstroke, call 911 immediately and move them to a cooler place. Remove excess clothing and cool them with whatever means available – cool bath/shower, spray with a hose, sponge with cool water, or place ice packs or cold, wet towels on their head, neck armpits, and groin.