Published by N. Stuart Harris, MD, MFA, FRCP Edin. in Health & Wellness
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can strike people of all ages, but the young, the elderly and outdoor workers are particularly at risk.
Check in on elderly family and neighbors during a heat wave. If they don’t have air conditioning, suggest they go to libraries and shopping malls to cool off. Remind them that cooking on the stove or in the oven makes their home even hotter.
If you are a coach, plan team practices during the cooler times of day and limit activity at midday.
If you are a roofer, road crew member or outdoor worker, know the danger signs so you can keep yourself and your co-workers safe.
When you are outside, drink more water than you typically would. Do not wait until you feel thirsty.
A person who develops heat exhaustion will feel terrible, but with the proper care, there is no danger to long-term health.
Signs: Feeling tired and light-headed; heavy sweating; cold, clammy skin; a fast, weak pulse; nausea and vomiting.
What to do: Get the person out of the sun and heat and into air conditioning or in front of a fan. Wet the skin with water (damp clothes or spray bottles work well) and place in front of a fan. Offer water or sports drinks to sip. Ask the person to lie down. Seek medical attention if the person continues to vomit or exhibits confusion.
Heat stroke is a true medical emergency. It happens when the body fails to control its temperature and a person stops sweating despite being hot. Within 15 minutes, the body temperature can climb to 105 degrees or higher. At that point, the body’s organs start to fail. Death can occur if the victim isn’t rapidly cooled.
Signs: Red, dry skin; altered medical status; confusion; rapid pulse.
What to do: Call 911. Get the person out of the sun and heat and into air conditioning or in front of a fan. Wet the skin with water (damp clothes or spray bottles work well) and place in front of a fan. Do not offer fluids.
For more advice for athletes, outdoor workers and people with chronic medical conditions, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.