Heat Exhaustion Or Heat Stroke?
With heat indices exceeding 100 degrees for the next week, it's important to take necessary measures to protect your health.
Cause Of Heat Illnesses?
Heat-related illnesses occur when your body can’t keep itself cool. As the temperature rises, your body produces sweat to stay cool. On hot, humid days - such as the weather we're anticipating this weekend - the increased moisture in the air slows down this process.
The heat index is not the same as the air temperature. The heat index measures the air temperature plus the effects of humidity. If the temperature is 90 degrees, for instance, and the relative humidity is 70%, the air feels as though it’s 106 degrees. A heat index of 90°F or higher calls for extreme caution. High humidity makes it harder for sweat to evaporate from the body. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures increases your risk of heat-related illnesses.
When your body can’t cool, your body temperature rises and you can become ill.
How Your Body Reacts to High Temperatures
There are 3 main reactions to hot environmental temperatures and heat waves:
- Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat illness and consist of painful muscle cramps and spasms that occur during or after intense exercise and sweating in high heat.
- Heat exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps and results from a loss of water and salt in the body. It occurs in conditions of extreme heat and excessive sweating without adequate fluid and salt replacement. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is unable to cool itself properly and, if left untreated, can progress to heat stroke.
- Heat stroke, the most severe form of heat illness, occurs when the body's heat-regulating system is overwhelmed by excessive heat. Heat stroke, also called a sun stroke, is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical attention.
Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke?
The signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are similar. Here's how to tell the difference and what to do for first aid.
Heat exhaustion symptoms
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, pale, and clammy skin
- Fast, weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Tiredness or weakness
- Fainting (passing out)
If you are experiencing any of these heat exhaustion symptoms you should:
- Move to a cool place
- Loosen your clothes
- Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath
- Sip water
Heat stroke symptoms
- High body temperature
- Hot, red, dry or damp skin
- Fast, strong pulse
- Losing consciousness
If you are experiencing any of these heat stroke symptoms you should:
- Call 911 immediately.
- Move the person to a cool place.
- Help lower the person’s body temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath.
- Do not give the person anything to drink.
Risk Factors For Heat Illness
There are many factors that can increase your risk of developing heat illness.
- Lack of water consumption
- Use of alcohol
- Caffeine consumption
- Physical condition
- Heart, lung, and kidney diseases
- High blood pressure
- Age (the very young or old)
- Being overweight or underweight
Heat Illnesses Prevention
The key to avoiding heat illnesses is prevention, said according to Stevan A. Vuckovic, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Franciscan Health Munster.
Follow these tips to reduce your risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke:
- “Stay in places that are cool," Dr. Vuckovic said. "Take care of your pets, elderly people and children because they are more susceptible to the heat effects.”
- Use air conditioning and fans. If those options do not keep you comfortable, go to area cooling shelters or public areas such as your local library, community center, museum or senior center.
- “Don’t forget about our elderly people out there; make sure we are checking on them too," Dr. Vuckovic said. Older adults are more susceptible to heat-related illness, may have memory issues, have underlying medical conditions or may not have a working air conditioner.
- If you need to spend time outside, wear lightweight, loose-fitting cotton clothing. Light-colored clothing also helps because it will reflect some of the sun’s heat.
- "Limit outdoor activities to early morning or evenings to limit exposure to the hottest hours of the day," said Jeffrey Cox, MD, an urgent care doctor at Franciscan ExpressCare CityWay.
- Don't leave your children in vehicles.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine or sugary drinks.
- “Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate," said Louis F. Janeira, MD, FACC, a cardiologist at Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians in Crawfordsville. "It’s all about the water loss. When we lose water, the heart compensates. Some folks don’t have the heart strength to compensate. I tell my severe heart disease patients not to stay outside, that the best thing is to stay inside and minimize time outdoors.”