Heat Illness: symptoms and when to seek medical attention

It’s certainly been hot in the South the last few weeks. One of the things we stress around this time of year is staying healthy in the summer heat. This week’s safety topic is heat illness. Below is information on avoiding heat stress and recognizing symptoms of heat illness.

Preventing heat illness:
1. If you can’t avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day, rest frequently in a cool spot and drink fluids. When possible, schedule exercise or labor for cooler parts of the day. Also, limiting time spent in heat until you’re conditioned to it. It can take several weeks for your body to get acclimated.
2. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. This will help replace the fluid you are losing body sweat. Sweating helps your body maintain a normal body temperature in the heat.
3. Make sure your clothing is light weight and fits loosely. Wearing excess clothing or clothing that fits tightly won’t allow your body to cool properly.
4. Apply sunscreen often and liberally, because sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself. When possible, add protection with a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

  Listen to your body, try to pay attention and notice when you feel overheated, weak, or irritable. These are subtle indicators that you need a break. Other, more severe symptoms of heat illness to watch for are dizziness, nausea, and muscle cramps.

Use extra caution when taking medications or have a condition that increases your risk of heat-related problems. Talk to employers, coworkers, family, and friends about your medications or conditions so they can help watch for signs of heat stress.

Also, keep an eye on those around you for symptoms of heat illness. If caught early, heat stress can often be treated at home or work with rest in a cool spot and drinking fluids.

Seek medical assistance for the following symptoms:
1. Nausea or vomiting that prevents rehydration. IV fluids may be necessary.
2. Severe muscle cramps that cannot be relieved with re-hydration and stretching.

Seek EMERGENCY medical attention (Call 911!) if an individual shows any of the following symptoms:
1. Stops sweating
2. Becomes confused
3. Has a seizure or heat stroke.

 These are indicators of life threatening conditions. After you call 911, carry the individual to a cool place, remove their clothing and attempt to cool their body with a combination of cold compresses, or spraying/sponging the body with cool water and fans or circulating air.

 Knowing the signs of heat exhaustion could save your life or the life of someone you care about. Share this information and talk about heat illness so that we can keep each other safe all summer.

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