Identifying and Preventing Heat Injury or Heat Stress
The most common types of heat injury, listed in increasing severity are heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
A fine rash, particularly on the face and trunk, common in children. This rash often reflects the body’s attempt to cool itself by shunting more blood flow to the skin.
Think of it as simply a signal that someone is hot, and encourage them to hydrate, and take a break from the heat and sun. A cool cloth to the rash is helpful.
Muscle cramping or spasm in the arms, legs, and sometime trunk muscles.
- Stop activity and rest, in shade.
- Drink clear juices, a sports beverage, or water with food.
- Avoid going back to strenuous activity for a few hours.
Significant sweating causes dehydration, loss of fluid and salts.
Weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, increased breathing rate, rapid heart rate, mild elevation of temperature, up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Move to inside area or shade.
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Cool down shower, bath or wet towels.
- Seek medical help if symptoms don’t improve.
Heat Stroke occurs when the body is unable to control temperature through sweating, partly due to dehydration. Core temperature up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This can be fatal.
High core body temperature, confusion, dizziness, headache, hot dry skin or wet clammy skin, (depending on the stage of heat injury,) seizures, possible loss of consciousness.
- Call 911
- move person to shaded area, or air conditioned area if nearby
- begin applying cool water to body to decrease body temperature
- remove person’s clothing, other than underwear.
Prevention of Heat Injury
- Avoid heavy exertion in extreme heat and humidity.
- Monitor your pulse, and if it is significantly higher at rest than normal, take a break.
- Wear loose fitting, breathable clothing.
- Do heaviest activity in coolest part of day.
- Take more breaks than you normally would, in shaded areas, and drink water frequently, every 20-30 minutes.
- Maintain your conditioning, and if you have chronic illness or are on certain medications, such as diuretics or blood pressure medications, discuss exercise in extreme heat with your physician.
- Remember: Drink frequently. Know the early symptoms of heat injury. Stop when you have early symptoms and rehydrate.