There are three heat-related syndromes… Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion, and Heatstroke.

Symptoms

1: Heat Cramps – Involuntary Spasms of the Muscles.  Often related to Dehydration.  Treatment may include…

  • Rest
  • Massage Muscles
  • Hydrating (Drinking lots of Fluids), particularly Electrolyte Replacement Solutions

2: Heat Exhaustion – Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop suddenly or over time, especially with prolonged periods of exercise. Possible heat exhaustion signs and symptoms include:

  • Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
  • Faintness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Low blood pressure upon standing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache

If you think you’re experiencing heat exhaustion:

  • Stop all activity and rest
  • Move to a cooler place
  • Drink cool water or sports drinks

Contact your doctor if your signs or symptoms worsen or if they don’t improve within one hour. You may benefit from Intravenous Electrolyte Replacement (IV Fluids).

3: Heatstroke – The temperature is likely to be greater than or equal to 104 F (40 C).  There is an alteration of Mental Status with possible…

  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Loss of Consciousness

If you are with someone showing signs of Heat Related Symptoms and Altered Mental Status this can be Life Threatening, Call 911, seek immediate medical attention. Immediate Cooling will be needed in this situation.

Causes

Your body’s heat combined with environmental heat results in what’s called your core temperature — your body’s internal temperature. Your body needs to regulate the heat gain (and, in cold weather, heat loss) from the environment to maintain a core temperature that’s normal, approximately 98.6 F (37 C).

In hot weather, your body cools itself mainly by sweating. The evaporation of your sweat regulates your body temperature. However, when you exercise strenuously or otherwise overexert in hot, humid weather, your body is less able to cool itself efficiently.

As a result, your body may develop heat cramps, the mildest form of heat-related illness. Signs and symptoms of heat cramps usually include heavy sweating, fatigue, thirst and muscle cramps. Prompt treatment usually prevents heat cramps from progressing to heat exhaustion.

You usually can treat heat cramps by drinking fluids or sports drinks containing electrolytes such as Gatorade, getting into cooler temperatures, such as an air-conditioned or shaded place, and resting.

Additional Causes

Besides hot weather and strenuous activity, other causes of heat exhaustion include:

  • Dehydration, which reduces your body’s ability to sweat and maintain a normal temperature
  • Alcohol use, which can affect your body’s ability to regulate your temperature
  • Overdressing, particularly in clothes that don’t allow sweat to evaporate easily

Risk factors

Anyone can develop heat exhaustion, but certain factors increase your sensitivity to heat. They include:

  • Young Age or Old Age. Infants and Children younger than 4 and adults older than 65 are at higher risk of heat exhaustion. The body’s ability to regulate its temperature isn’t fully developed in the young and may be reduced by illness, medications or other factors in older adults.
  • Certain Drugs. Medications that affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and respond appropriately to heat include some used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems (Beta Blockers, Diuretics), reduce allergy symptoms (Antihistamines), calm you (Tranquilizers), or reduce psychiatric symptoms such as delusions (Anti-psychotics). Additionally, some illegal drugs, such as Cocaine and Amphetamines, can increase your core temperature.
  • Obesity. Carrying excess weight can affect your body’s ability to regulate its temperature and cause your body to retain more heat.
  • A High Heat Index. The heat index is a single temperature value that considers how both the outdoor temperature and humidity make you feel (Feels Like). When the humidity is high, your sweat can’t evaporate as easily, and your body has more difficulty cooling itself, making you more prone to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. When the heat index is 91 F (33 C) or higher, you should take precautions to keep cool.

Complications

Untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition that occurs when your core body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. Heatstroke requires immediate medical attention to prevent permanent damage to your brain and other vital organs that can result in death.

Prevention

You can take several precautions to prevent heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses. When temperatures climb, remember to:

  • Wear loose fitting, lightweight Clothing. Wearing excess clothing or clothing that fits tightly won’t allow your body to cool properly.
  • Protect against Sunburn. Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself, so protect yourself outdoors with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen and reapply every two hours or more often if you’re swimming or sweating.
  • Drink plenty of Fluids. Staying hydrated will help your body sweat and maintain a normal body temperature.
  • Take extra precautions with certain Medications. Be on the lookout for heat-related problems if you take medications that can affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat.
  • Take it easy during the hottest parts of the Day. If you can’t avoid strenuous activity in hot weather, drink fluids and rest frequently in a cool spot. Try to schedule exercise or physical labor for cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or evening.
  • Get Acclimated. Limit time spent working or exercising in heat until you’re conditioned to it. People who are not used to hot weather are especially susceptible to heat-related illness. It can take several weeks for your body to adjust to hot weather.
  • Be cautious if you’re at Increased Risk. If you take medications or have a condition that increases your risk of heat-related problems, such as a history of previous heat related illness, avoid the heat and act quickly if you notice symptoms of overheating. If you participate in a strenuous sporting event or activity in hot weather, make sure there are medical services available in case of a heat emergency.

 

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