The summer of 2012 will go down in history as one of the hottest summers on record. As temperatures in many states are hitting triple digits, we all need to be aware of how dangerous the heat can be. While some of us will brave the weather to enjoy some fun in the sun, we all need to pay attention to the health related problem that the heat presents. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can easily overcome us during this time of the year.
Heat Cramps usually happen to those that work outside in hot environments or during exercise in extreme weather. These cramps are painful, and may cause muscle spasms and involuntary jerking. If you worked very hard outside and have fatigued your muscles, you could find yourself a victim of this health issue. One of the most important things that you can to do to avoid having this condition is to drink plenty of water or Gatorade when engaging in any strenuous outdoor activities. Remember, the only symptoms you will have are the painful muscle spasms. If this happens to you, get to a cool or shady spot, drink plenty of water and rest.
Heat exhaustion is caused by many days of exposure to intense heat; which this summer would be an every day dilemma. Through excess perspiration or dehydration, this heat injury can be quite serious. The severity of the symptoms comes from one of two things; water or salt depletion. If salt depletion is causing the problem you will have vomiting, nausea, dizziness and cramps. If water depletion is the problem you will experience severe thirst, headaches and possibly loss of consciousness. To combat the effects of heat exhaustion loosen any tight clothing, drink plenty of water or other non caffeinated drinks, submerge yourself in cool water. If that’s not available get under a fan or use ice to cool yourself down. Important note: Get out of the heat immediately. This is imperative as heat exhaustion can quickly advance to Heat Stroke!
Heat stroke is brought on by the same exposures as heat cramps and heat exhaustion, but this illness is by far the most dangerous. As your body temperature rises to 104 degrees due the continued time spent in the heat, you are by definition suffering a heat stroke. With the rising temperature and no medical treatment; there is opportunity for catastrophic damage to be done to the heart, kidneys and brain. If help is delayed for too long this illness can result in death. The symptoms to look for would be no sweating, rapid breathing, confusion, racing heart rate and possible coma. Anytime heat stroke is expected immediately call for help. Get to a cool place and remove any extra clothing. Use ice or wet towels to help lower the body temperature until help arrives. These measures could mean the difference between life and death.
As the temperature continues to rise throughout the United States, be conscious about the negative effects of the heat. Drink plenty of water or Gatorade, keep as cool as possible, take breaks as necessary and watch out for any signs or symptoms of heat related illnesses. If you can, when the weather gets this hot; it is best to do inside activities. It may look beautiful outside when the sun is shining, but the hidden dangers still exist.