Beware of the Three H’s of Summer: Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke
According to the CDC, over 500-600 people a year die of a heat related illnesses. In these instances, death is always preventable. Education and awareness, recognition of the symptoms, immediate response, and decisive action can save a life.
This article will clearly define the environmental hazards that put you at risk, symptoms to be aware of, preventable measures, and the fast response measures necessary to mitigate bodily harm.
Always be “situationally aware”!
Any time there is excessive heat, especially accompanied by high humidity, be very aware of intense physical activity whether at play or work. That increased physical activity puts great demands on your body’s natural cooling mechanisms. When you are sweating profusely from exertion, you lose a lot of fluid from your system which can quickly cause dehydration. If you are doing this activity on a very hot and humid day, the relative humidity is a critical factor in your body’s inability to shed your sweat since the sweat on your skin cannot evaporate into the surrounding moist and humid air. Therefore, your physical ability to cool fails.
Follow these simple guidelines that will help keep you and your loved ones safe this summer.
- Limit intense activity in direct sun and on hot and humid days to short periods of time, broken up by sitting in the shade, resting, and drinking plenty of fluids.
- Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!
- The minute anyone feels affected by the heat in any way, respond quickly and firmly and take preventive measures to ensure safety: shade, rest, hydration.
- Wear appropriate clothes and a hat for protection where possible.
Here are the major symptoms associated with the three H’s and what you need to do:
- Heat Cramps: Muscle cramps and weakness, prickly heat or heat rash.
What to do: Stop your activity, move to a cool, shady place, and hydrate.
- Heat Exhaustion: Profuse sweating, muscle cramps and weakness, headache, nausea and vomiting, faintness, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, rapid pulse, pale and clammy skin.
What to do: Stop your activity immediately and move to a cool and shady place. Hydrate well and TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY. If you do not respond to the safety measures and continue to feel ill, call 911 and seek immediate medical assistance.
- Heat Stroke: Red and hot skin, dry, no sweat, change in mental status, confusion, lethargy, seizure or coma.
What to do: MEDICAL EMERGENCY AND COULD BE LIFE THREATENING. CALL 911. Move to a cool and shady place at once and attempt to cool the person off.
At particular risk are:
- Infants and small children: their body’s cooling mechanisms are not fully formed yet. Most important, they cannot fend for themselves and are totally at the mercy of whomever is caring for them.
- The elderly: they are more frail, usually have multiple medical problems, poor circulation, much more fragile skin and chronic medication usage that can increase their risk.
- People on antidepressants, antipsychotics, tranquilizers: these medications increase a risk to heat intensive problems.
- People with chronic illnesses and compromised immune systems.
High risk factors also include:
- Alcohol consumption: decreases the body’s ability to regulate its temperature, increases dehydration and reduces one’s awareness of risky symptoms.
- Being overweight: increases the risk of the body’s inability to regulate its temperature.
- Socioeconomic factors: like no access to an air conditioner or work that forces them to be outside in dangerous conditions.
However, the reality is that everyone is at risk in certain situations. Being aware, knowledgeable and able to recognize the symptoms of any of the three H’s, taking them seriously and acting quickly and decisively could easily save a life. All of these are completely preventable.
It is also noteworthy to add that all animals, dogs in particular, are at risk for the same heat related problems. Cats can get themselves someplace safe independently, but dogs that are kept outside in the heat with no shade or access to water, can die from heat stroke. Also, dogs kept in cars for even short periods of time are at a huge risk of dying in the heat. Always make sure your animal is safe and cared for as well.
At Prism Health Advocates, our goal is to not only assist with navigating the healthcare system, but to help educate and empower people to understand how to manage their own healthcare, including how to proactively take care of themselves and stay healthy. We not only advocate for people, but also offer quality, in-depth lectures on a wide variety of subjects in understandable language, encouraging participation and lively discussions. Give us a call and let us help you gain a better understanding of your healthcare world and your ability to be in control of it.