The best defence is prevention.
Tips to prevent heat-related illnesses
- Drink more fluids (non-alcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink.
- Do not drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar, as these can cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
- Stay indoors and, if at all possible, in an air-conditioned place. If you do not have air-conditioning, go to a shopping mall or public library. A few hours spent in an air-conditioned room can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
- Take a cool shower or bath.
- Wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing.
- Never leave anyone in a closed parked vehicle, including pets.
- Check regularly on infants, young children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses.
If you must be in the heat
- Limit your outdoor activity between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m..
- Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool non-alcoholic fluids each hour.
- Try to rest often in shady areas.
- Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher and lightweight clothing.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency!
Symptoms of heat stroke:
- No sweating
- High body temperature
- Hot, red, dry skin
- Confusion, strange behaviour
- Possible loss of consciousness
Things to do if you suspect heat stroke:
- Get medical assistance as soon as possible. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately if you are caring for someone, who has a high body temperature and is either unconscious, confused or has stopped sweating.
- While waiting for help, cool the person right away by moving them to a cool place.
- Remove clothing, douse them with water, and fan them vigorously.
Heat exhaustion is a heat related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalance replacement fluids. It is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are older adults, infants and young children, people with chronic illnesses, and people working or exercising in a hot environment.
Symptoms to recognize heat exhaustion
- Heavy sweating or reduced sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Extreme fatigue, tiredness
- Dizziness or fainting
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Fast, shallow breathing
If heat exhaustion is left untreated, it may progress to heat stroke.
Things to do if you suspect heat exhaustion
- Cool off in a dry place
- Drink water and do not drink alcoholic beverages
- Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath and fan the wet skin
- Apply ice to head, neck, armpits and groin areas
- Go to an air-conditioned environment
- Wear lightweight clothing
- Seek medical attention, if no improvement
Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age, but is most common in young children.
Warning signs to recognize heat rash
- Little red clusters or small blisters
- Occurs on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breast and in the elbow creases
Things to do if you suspect heat rash
- Provide a cooler, less humid environment
- Keep affected area dry
- Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort
- Avoid using ointments or creams
Treating heat rash is simple and usually does not require medical assistance.
Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous physical activity. The sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture and the low salt in the muscles cause’s painful cramps.
Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion. Heat cramps usually occurs during or after exercise and will affect only specific muscles exercised.
Symptoms to recognize heat cramps
- Muscles pains and spasms in the stomach, arms or legs
- Clammy skin
- Throbbing heart
Things to do if you suspect heat cramps
- Stop all activity, and sit quietly in a cool place;
- Drink water;
- Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside, because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke;
- Seek medical attention if your heat cramps do not subside in 1 hour.