During extremely hot and humid weather, your body’s ability to cool itself is challenged. When the body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost through dehydration or sweating, body temperature rises and you or someone you care about may experience a heat-related illness. It is important to know the symptoms of excessive heat exposure and the appropriate responses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a list of warning signs and symptoms of heat illness, and recommended first aid steps. Some of these symptoms and steps are listed below.
Heat cramps may be the first sign of heat-related illness, and may lead to heat exhaustion or stroke.
- Symptoms: Painful muscle cramps and spasms usually in legs and abdomen and Heavy sweating.
- First Aid: Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water unless the person complains of nausea, then stop giving water.
Seek immediate medical attention if cramps last longer than 1 hour.
- Symptoms: Heavy sweating, Weakness or tiredness, cool, pale, clammy skin; fast, weak pulse, muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, headache, fainting,
- First Aid: Move person to a cooler environment, preferably a well air conditioned room. Loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths or have person sit in a cool bath. Offer sips of water. If person vomits more than once,
Seek immediate medical attention if the person vomits, symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour
- Symptoms: Throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, body temperature above 103°F, hot, red, dry or damp skin, rapid and strong pulse, fainting, loss of consciousness.
- First Aid: Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Delay can be fatal. Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment. Reduce body temperature with cool cloths or bath. Use fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s. A fan can make you hotter at higher temperatures. Do NOT give fluids.
Using a fan to blow air in someone’s direction may actually make them hotter if heat index temperatures are above the 90s. For more information on all of these heat related illnesses, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) site.