By: Exzur A. Chavez RN
How to Recognize a Heat–Related Illness
During a heat wave, it's important to know and be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heat-related illness. There are different types of heat-related illnesses, ranging from those that cause temporary discomfort to the generally fatal condition known as heat stroke. In all heat-related illnesses, the symptoms appear when a person is exposed to extreme temperatures.
The following checklist can help you recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses:
- Heat Rash: Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age. Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.
- Heat cramps: A person who has been exercising or participating in other types of strenuous activity in the heat may develop painful muscle spasms in the arms, legs, or abdomen referred to as heat rash. The body temperature is usually normal, and the skin will feel moist and cool, but sweaty.
Heat stroke facts
- Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia in which the body temperature is elevated dramatically.
- Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not promptly and properly treated.
- Cooling the victim is a critical step in the treatment of heat stroke.
- The most important measures to prevent heat strokes are to avoid becoming dehydrated and to avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather.
- Infants, the elderly, athletes, and outdoor workers are the groups at greatest risk for heat stroke.
· What is, and who is at risk for heat stroke?
· Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia, an abnormally elevated body temperature with accompanying physical symptoms including changes in the nervous system function. Unlike heat cramps and heat exhaustion, two other forms of hyperthermia that are less severe, heat stroke is a true medical emergency that is often fatal if not properly and promptly treated. Heat stroke is also sometimes referred to as heatstroke or sun stroke. Severe hyperthermia is defined as a body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher.
· The body normally generates heat as a result of metabolism, and is usually able to dissipate the heat by radiation of heat through the skin or by evaporation of sweat. However, in extreme heat, high humidity, or vigorous physical exertion under the sun, the body may not be able to dissipate the heat and the body temperature rises, sometimes up to 106 F (41.1 C) or higher. Another cause of heat stroke is dehydration. A dehydrated person may not be able to sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, which causes the body temperature to rise.
Those most susceptible (at risk) individuals to heart strokes include:
- the elderly (often with associated heart diseases, lung diseases, kidney diseases, or who are taking medications that make them vulnerable to dehydration and heat strokes),
- athletes, and
- individuals who work outside and physically exert themselves under the sun.
What are heat stroke symptoms and signs?
Symptoms of heat stroke can sometimes mimic those of heart attack or other conditions. Sometimes a person experiences symptoms of heat exhaustion before progressing to heat strokes.
Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
However, some individuals can develop symptoms of heat stroke suddenly and rapidly without warning.
Different people may have different symptoms and signs of heatstroke.
Common symptoms and signs of heat stroke include: