How to beat the heat

For many people, the summer months are a source of happiness. It’s always fun to join your family for a picnic, enjoy a walk through the neighborhood or spend an evening sitting on your front porch. However, as the temperature climbs, so does the risk of heat-related illnesses and injuries – especially for children, seniors and those with chronic health problems.

Heat-Related Illnesses

"Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are mainly caused by being exposed to hot temperatures for too long. Exercising outside during the prime periods of the day - from noon to 3 or 4 p.m. - would definitely trigger it," says Kaitlyn Gamber, P.A. from CK Urgent Care at Broomall.

There are three types of heat-related illnesses to be aware of, these include:

  • Heat Cramps: Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat illness and consist of painful muscle cramps and spasms that occur during or after intense exercise and sweating in high heat.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps and results from a loss of water and salt in the body. It occurs in conditions of extreme heat and excessive sweating without adequate fluid and salt replacement. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is unable to cool itself properly and, if left untreated, can progress to heat stroke.
  • Heat Stroke: Heat stroke, the most severe form of heat illness, occurs when the body's heat-regulating system is overwhelmed by excessive heat. It is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness

The symptoms of heat cramps are exactly what you’d expect: painful cramps, especially in the legs. You may also be flushed and sweaty. But, what are the signs and symptoms you should look for in someone who may be experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke?

"What you should look for is their mental status," says Gamber. “Are they able to speak with you coherently? Are they able to walk normally without stumbling or staggering?”

Symptoms of heat exhaustion will often include heat cramps, but you may also experience fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, weakness, or an anxious or fain feeling.

"Look at the way they are sweating," Gamber continues. "Are they sweating normally or are they sweating profusely? Also, what is their breathing status? Are they having problems catching their breath or are they breathing normally."

Someone experiencing heat stroke will initially show the same symptoms as heat exhaustion, but will also stop sweating and have warm, dry skin. If this happens it is important to seek immediate medical treatment at a hospital or emergency room. As heat stroke progresses, additional symptoms include confusion, agitation, lethargy and stupor. Seizures, coma and death are possible for someone suffering from heat stroke.

Treating Heat-Related Illness

The first step to treating heat related illness is to move to a cool place and rest, preferably before the condition escalates. You should remove excess clothing and place a cool compress or ice pack on your skin. Drinking sports drinks containing salt and sugar can also help.

If the symptoms don’t subside, you may want to seek medical care. The advanced practitioners and doctors at Crozer-Keystone’s urgent care centers can quickly, conveniently treat heat cramps or heat exhaustion.

For symptoms of heat stroke, Call 911 or your local emergency medical service. Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency and needs to be treated by a doctor.

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About Crozer Keystone Staff

Crozer-Keystone Health System’s physicians, specialists and advanced practitioners are committed to improving the health of our community through patient-centered, quality care across a full continuum of health services. Crozer Brinton Lake is Crozer-Keystone’s comprehensive outpatient care facility in western Delaware County, offering primary care, specialty services, outpatient surgery and advanced cancer treatment. Contact us: 300 Evergreen Drive, Glen Mills, PA 19342 http://www.crozerkeystone.org/Brinton-Lake 1-855-254-7425

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