With summer fully upon us, and temperatures skyrocketing, it’s easy to forget to take the time to protect yourself from the heat. It’s very important to keep in mind, however, that extreme temperatures can cause your body to overheat, putting you at risk for heat-related illnesses. And while some of these heat-induced reactions can be minor, some can be much more serious and even life threatening.
Why do heat-related illnesses occur?
WebMD explains, “As your body works to cool itself under extreme or prolonged heat, blood rushes to the surface of your skin. As a result, less blood reaches your brain, muscles, and other organs,” and you become susceptible to a heat-related illness.
What is a heat-related illness?
The following is a list of the four heat-related conditions from least to most severe:
- Heat rash can occur when pores are blocked, trapping sweat under the skin. It manifests as hives and while uncomfortable, is not usually dangerous.
- Heat cramps are muscle spasms that usually occur in the arms, legs and abdominal muscles during strenuous activity. It is brought about by a loss of fluids, salt and other essential nutrients.
- Heat exhaustion also occurs with loss of fluids and salt during strenuous activity and can have a number of symptoms:
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Heavy sweating
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure upon standing
- Muscle cramps
- Heatstroke occurs when the body temperature rises to or above 104°. It is extremely serious and requires immediate medical care. The symptoms are:
- Mental or behavior changes
- Hot and dry skin
- Flushed skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Flushed skin
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Racing heart and pulse rate
If you are aware of the symptoms of a heat-related illness, the sooner you recognize them and take action, the better chance the sufferer will recover quickly. Visit WebMD for instructions on what to do when you first spot the signs. That said, it’s best to be proactive and take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses altogether.
How do I stay safe in the heat?
- Stay hydrated. Remember that caffeine and alcohol cause dehydration.
- Avoid strenuous activity. If you must exercise or do physical work, do it in air conditioning if possible or early in the morning or after sunset. Also listen to your body and don’t overdo.
- Wear light-colored, loose clothing; cotton is especially good.
- Wear a hat. It sound counterintuitive, but the right hat will keep your head cool, which in turn keeps your body temperature down. Hats with brims are especially good because they provide shade that literally moves with you.
As you can see, if you prepare for the heat, it is easy to keep yourself safe as the temperatures soar.
Everyone here at CT Sinus Center hopes you have a cool summer season!