Summer is a time when we are eager to get out in the sunshine and soak up the rays. But as temperatures rise, so does the likelihood of heat-related illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), above-average temperatures or unusually humid weather kill more than 600 people in the United States each year. It’s important to know what steps to take to stay safe in the summer months.
Heatstroke is caused by your body overheating, usually due to staying outside too long or exercising outdoors in high temperatures. This most serious form of heat injury can happen if your body temperature rises to 104 F (40 C) or higher. The condition is most common in the summer months.
Heatstroke needs emergency treatment. Untreated heatstroke can kill or damage the brain and other organs. The damage gets worse the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.
- A core body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
- Change in mental state or behavior, like confusion, slurred speech, irritability, seizures, and coma
- Change in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. In heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel dry or slightly moist.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
- Fast breathing
- Racing heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
What to do
If you think a person may be experiencing heatstroke, call 911 or your local emergency services number.
Take immediate steps to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency help.
- Get the person into a cooler place
- Help lower the person’s temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath
- Do not give the person anything to drink
Heat exhaustion is a condition where your body is overheating. The signs of heat exhaustion may include heavy sweating and a fast pulse.
Causes include exposure to hot temperatures, especially when combined with high humidity, and outdoor intense physical activity. If you don’t get treatment quickly, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke. The good thing is, heat exhaustion can be prevented.
If you think you might have heat exhaustion, you should immediately rest and rehydrate. If symptoms do not improve, seek medical help.
- Dizziness and fainting
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, pale and damp and sticky skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weak, fast pulse
- Weakness or muscle cramps
- Being very thirsty
What to do
- Stop all activity, then rest
- Move to a cooler, air-conditioned place
- Drink water or sports drinks. No alcohol
- Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath
- Remove tight-fitting clothing or extra layers