As the nation continues to heat up, the heat-related health risks continue to take their toll. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who either fail or refuse to take the risks seriously.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke symptoms
A person who is outside in very high temperatures or even inside without adequate cooling sources can suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. It is imperative to recognize the symptoms.
Heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy sweating and a weak, but rapid pulse related to exposure to high temperatures. Although the person is very hot and sweaty, there may be chills, even goose bumps, on the skin while in the heat. Other symptoms includes fatigue, headache, dizziness and nausea. If a person suffering from heat exhaustion does not quickly cool down, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.
The Mayo Clinic says that heat stroke is “the most severe” of heat-related conditions. Heat stroke symptoms includes the cessation of sweating, rapid and shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat, either elevated or low blood pressure and irritability in addition to the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Victims of heat stroke may also faint.
Detecting the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Although many of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke may be very similar, there are distinct differences. It is these differences that can cause rapid deterioration of the victim.
When a person is suffering from heat stroke, unlike in heat exhaustion, the ability to sweat has diminished. Temperature becomes very elevated and the skin becomes very dry. The individual may also exhibit mental confusion and can lapse into a coma.
Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be deadly
Although heat exhaustion is typically considered less serious than heat stroke, it is no less dangerous. The Associated Press revealed to other media sources that WLEX-TV, Lexington, Kentucky reported that a deputy coroner ruled that a 78 year-old man who wandered away from his Mays Lick, Kentucky home had died of heat exhaustion.
In 2012, WSMV-TV reported that a three year old boy and a five year-old were outside playing when the three year old apparently became overheated. The three year old boy died of heat exhaustion and the five year old was hospitalized in critical condition.
Heat strokes can occur quite quickly when an individual is exposed to extreme heat conditions. A 39 year-old construction worker died of a heat stroke after working in the heat on the campus of the University of Arkansas on a day when the temperature soared to 97 degrees. Co-workers noticed that the man seemed disoriented and after he began complaining of a headache, they took him to an area hospital. In spite of having water and shade available on the work site, the man subsequently died of heat stroke. His body temperature was 109 degrees.
Pets can succumb to heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Pets are in danger of suffering heat-related illnesses or even death, if proper precautions are not taken to protect them. Q13Fox revealed that a police dog that had been left in his K-9 handler’s car died of a heat stroke.
Although the cause of death of two pit bulls was ruled as being the result of heat stroke, their owner stated he did not deserve the animal cruelty and neglect charges levied against him.
Protection from heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Although exposure to extreme heat conditions may not be completely avoidable, particularly for those who work outside or those without a car who must use other means to get where they are going, there are precautions that can be taken to minimize heat-related dangers.
Before leaving home, drink plenty of cold water. Take a water bottle with you that is filled with ice as well as water. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
Do not drink alcohol. Drinking alcoholic beverages affects the ability of the body to regulate temperature.
Wear lightweight and light-colored clothing. Dark clothing holds in heat – avoid dark colors on hot days.
If you start to feel too hot or develop any of the early symptoms of heat exhaustion, seek cooler temperatures immediately. If you cannot get indoors, at least get under some shade.
Avoid exercising outdoors in extreme heat. Even mornings can be muggy and hot, particularly in areas where there is a “heat wave.”
If you do not have a vehicle, take public transportation on very hot days. Do not walk out in extreme heat. If you must go out, go in the very early morning or in evening when temperatures are cooler. If you have a loved one or neighbor without a car, offer them a ride on hot days.
Keep pets well hydrated by providing ample amounts of cool water. Never leave pets tied up outdoors where they cannot get to shade or water. On extremely hot days, keep pets indoors.
Being indoors does not completely prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Homes without air conditioning or fans can become extremely hot, resulting in heat-related illness or death for occupants. Keep the indoors cooled down as much as possible.
Help your elderly neighbors or those who may not be able to afford an air conditioner or fan. Fans can be purchased for under $20. Many communities give free fans or air conditioners, through community agencies, to those who meet qualification guidelines. Make contact with the resource or refer someone you know who is in need.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion may come on subtly. A headache or fatigue may be much more, quickly progressing to serious illness or even death. Learn to recognize the symptoms, take precautions and check on loved ones and pets often. Doing so can save a life.