Extreme heat can be fatal. Already this year, 29 children have died from being left in hot cars, and hundreds of adults die each year from heat stroke or other conditions that are made worse by the high temperatures. As unusually high temperatures become more common, it's important to be aware of the symptoms of heat-related illness, and how to prevent them from happening.
What are Heat-Related Illnesses?
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are conditions that happen when your internal body temperature gets too high. When your body's cooling system cannot keep up, your internal temperature rises beyond what is safe. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are caused by prolonged exposure to hot weather and/or overexerting yourself (i.e. playing tennis or working outside) on a hot day.
Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness:
According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion may include confusion, dizziness, agitation, skin that is hot to the touch, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing, headache and an elevated heart rate.
Heat Exhaustion VS Heat Stroke:
Heat exhaustion is a precursor to heat stroke, which develops if the heat exhaustion is not recognized and treated. If you're suffering from heat exhaustion, you will probably start to think "I'm feeling overheated." You may begin to sweat excessively and feel sick. Your heart rate may increase and you might have a headache and feel desperately thirsty. When your body completely loses its ability to bring your body temperature down, you have crossed the line to heat stroke. You will probably have many of the same symptoms, plus mental confusion, muscle cramping, seizures or fainting.
Babies, adults ages 65 and older, and those with chronic health conditions are at greater risk of getting sick from the heat. In these groups, the body's cooling system may be underdeveloped or compromised due to age or illness. It's imperative that these populations follow recommendations for heat safety, especially in the summer months.
To reduce your risk of heat related illness, minimize your time in the sun or outdoors, especially on days when the heat index is 90 or above. Wear loose clothing and drink plenty of water, and always use sunscreen. Try to avoid vigorous activity during the hottest hours of the day. Finally, never leave a child in a hot car, even for a minute.
If you recognize the signs of heat exhaustion in yourself or somebody else, get out of the heat and drink some water. Remove tight clothing and lie down. Check your temperature. You can also take a cool shower. If your symptoms don't go away within 30 minutes, or more severe symptoms start to develop, go to the emergency room.
Dogs and cats can get heat related illnesses, too. Make sure they have plenty of water and a shady spot to rest in outdoors. Never leave animals in a hot car. If your animal seems distressed and is panting like crazy, get them out of the heat immediately. Try cooling them off with a hose or in the bathtub. If symptoms persist, call your vet right away.
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