Every year, roughly 170 Americans die of heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat cramps and heat rash. Heat illnesses can be easily prevented if the proper precautions are taken.
Heat exhaustion occurs when your body overheats due to high temperatures and physical exertion, and sweating isn’t enough for the body to cool down. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal, so it’s important to know the signs and what to do.
Heat exhaustion is easily prevented if you take the right precautions. The most important thing is to stay hydrated. In high temperatures, the body’s thirst mechanism isn’t enough to replace the water lost through sweating. Drink plenty of cool fluids—about 16 to 32 ounces per hour.
Dressing appropriately is important, too. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, lightweight clothes so the heat can escape. Rest frequently and seek the shade often. Morning and evening are best for physical activity. Avoid being active outdoors during the hottest parts of the day—generally between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
It’s important to be able to recognize heat exhaustion. The most common signs include:
- Cool and moist skin
- Extreme thirst
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Vomiting or nausea
Heat exhaustion can quickly turn into heat stroke; a fast response to any of these symptoms is crucial. If you notice any of the above signs in your child, follow these tips:
- Find a cool area such as an air-conditioned room or a patch of shade and have him or her lie down.
- Apply cool liquid to the skin directly or with a moist cloth. A cold bath or shower is also effective.
- Have him or her drink cold water.
- Keep a close watch to be sure his or her condition is improving.
If the person begins hallucinating or becomes confused or unconscious, seek emergency medical care immediately.
For more information, search “summer safety” above.
This article was reviewed by Mitchell J. Goldman, D.O., F.A.A.E.M., F.A.A.P., medical director, Hilbert Pediatric ED, medical director, outpatient pediatric sedation services, Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent.