During extremely hot and humid weather the body's ability to cool itself is affected. When the body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost through dehydration or sweating, body temperature rises and heat-related illnesses may develop.
Factors or conditions that can make some people more susceptible to heat-related illnesses include age (older adults and young children), obesity, fever, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, prescription drug and alcohol use, and sunburn. Sunburn, caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun, can significantly retard the skin's ability to shed excess heat.
Heat-related illnesses can range from heat cramps to heat exhaustion to more serious heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.
Heat-Related Illness Symptoms and First Aid
- Heavy sweating
- Cool, pale, clammy skin
- Weak pulse
- Possible muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Normal temperature possible
- First Aid:
- Move person to a cooler environment
- Remove or loosen clothing
- Apply cool, wet cloths
- Fan or move victim to air conditioned room
- Offer sips of water. If nausea occurs, discontinue water. If vomiting continues, seek immediate medical attention.
HEAT STROKE (or sunstroke)
- Altered mental state
- Possible throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathing
- High body temperature (106°F or higher)
- Skin may be hot and dry, or patient may be sweating
- Rapid pulse
- Possible unconsciousness
- First Aid:
- Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Summon emergency medical assistance or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Delay can be fatal.
- Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment
- Reduce body temperature with a water mister and fan or sponging
- Use fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s
- Use extreme caution
- If temperature rises again, repeat process
- Do NOT give fluids