Heat Illness: What You Need to Know

 With the summer fast approaching, everyone should be concerned about heat-related illnesses. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention states than 300 people die of heat-related illnesses each year. Many others require medical attention due to exertional heat illnesses such as dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and exertional heat stroke (EHS).

Dehydration occurs when you do not replace the fluids lost by sweating. This can make you feel ill and put you at greater risk for other dangerous heat illnesses. Some signs/symptoms include:
·         Dry Mouth, thirst
·         Irritably, crankiness, headache
·         Dizziness, cramps, excessive fatigue
You should move to a shaded or air-conditioned area and drink chilled fluids (water or electrolyte replacement drinks). Return to your activity once you are symptom-free and feel better.
Heat cramps are intense muscle spasms that usually occur after one has been exercising over a period of time with no fluid replacement. These cramps cause intense pain during and after exercise. You should replace fluids and electrolytes lost during the exercise and stretch/massage the cramp.
Heat exhaustion occurs when one continues to be physically active after suffering from heat related issues, such as dehydration. Some signs/symptoms reported by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) include:
·         Loss of coordination, dizziness, fainting
·         Dehydration, profuse sweating, pale skin, headache
·         Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
·         Stomach cramps, persistent muscle cramps
If you feel that heat exhaustion is occurring you should:
·         Move the person to a shaded or air-conditioned area
·         Remove extra clothing and equipment
·         Cool the person with cold water, fans or cold towels (replace towels frequently)
·         Lie down with legs above heart level
·         If no nausea/vomiting is present, have them drink chilled fluids (water or electrolyte replacement drinks)
·         If no improvement is made take the person to the emergency room
These people shouldn’t return to activity for several days. If they receive emergency medical treatment, they must be cleared by the MD before returning to activity.
Exertional Heat Stroke is severe heat illness in which your body can’t dissipate the heat it has created. This can lead to permanent damage or even death if not treated properly. Some signs/symptoms reported by the NATA include:
·         Increase of core temperature (usually above 104 degrees rectally) when the person falls ill
·         Altered consciousness, seizures, confusion, emotional instability, irrational behavior, or decreased mental acuity
·         Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
·         Headache, dizziness, or weakness
·         Increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure
·         Dehydration
·         Combativeness
If this occurs and no medical personnel are on site, you should call EMS immediately. Start the cooling process. Remove all extra clothing and begin whole-body cooling by immersing the person in a tub of cold water. If a tub isn’t available use other methods such as cold water, fans, cold towels (replace frequently) placed over as much of the body as possible. It is crucial to reduce the core temperature as quickly as possible to reduce the severe risks associated with Exertional Heat Stroke. These people must be cleared by their MD before returning to activity.

If you have questions, or for more information, contact Trent Hayes, ATC at trent.hayes@msj.org or call 828-659-5000.