Excessive exposure to extreme heat can be very dangerous, especially to older adults, those with chronic illness and people taking certain medications. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion and, the most serious, heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion occurs after prolonged exposure to high heat, and it can develop several days afterward if fluids are not adequately replenished. Signs to watch out for are:
- Heavy sweating
- Fatigue and weakness
- Fast, weak pulse
- Fast, shallow breathing
If heat exhaustion is suspected, cool the body down with a cool shower or bath, cold non-alcoholic drinks, and staying in an air-conditioned area wearing lightweight clothing. If symptoms persist for more than hour, seek medical attention.
Heat Stroke happens when the body can no longer control its temperature and its sweating mechanism fails. This prevents the body from being able to cool itself down, and body temperature rapidly rises. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death if not treated immediately. Signs to watch out for are:
- Body temperature above 103
- Hot, red, dry skin
- Rapid pulse
- Throbbing headache
Any of these signs could indicate a life-threatening emergency. Call emergency medical personnel, get the person to a shady area and try to cool the body down in any way possible.
Fortunately, heat-related illness is preventable. Limit time outdoors in extreme heat and during peak heat hours, drink fluids constantly, wear lightweight clothing and sunscreen, and stay in an air-conditioned environment on hot days.
Enjoy warm weather safely this summer by protecting yourself and knowing when to take a break to beat the heat.