According to the US CDC, more Americans perish from exposure to high heat each year than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.
When temperatures rise, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are potentially lethal conditions. When the body can no longer control its temperature to cool down, heat stroke occurs.
Many American communities have recently declared heat emergencies as a result of the growing climate catastrophe, which has changed weather patterns nationwide. When temperatures rise, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are potentially lethal conditions, so it’s crucial to understand the warning signs, symptoms, and what to do if you or someone else becomes ill from heat.
According to Southern California’s Hoag Orthopedic Institute‘s sports medicine specialist Dr. Adam Rivadeneyra, heat sickness is a continuum, with heatstroke causing neurologic abnormalities like loss of consciousness and/or seizures.
Heat exhaustion is a milder type of heat-related disease that can appear after several days of exposure to high temperatures and insufficient or uneven fluid replacement, according to the CDC. According to the organisation, a heat stroke occurs when the body loses the ability to control its temperature and cool down. Without immediate medical attention, body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or more within 10 to 15 minutes, which can result in death or lifelong disability.
Our body temperature is generally controlled to remain between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Dr. Theodore Strange, chair of medicine at Staten Island University Hospital, in New York. He underlined that once someone’s temperature hits 104 degrees, it becomes concerning.
Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are the three stages of heat injury to watch out for, according to Strange. He issued a warning that signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion may develop quickly or over time, especially with sustained exercise periods.
According to Strange, indications and symptoms of heat illness may include cool, moist skin that develops goose bumps in hot weather, profuse sweating, dizziness, a weak or quick heartbeat, cramping in the muscles, nausea, headaches, and others.
According to Strange, avoiding vigorous activity during the hottest part of the day or in the sun is the greatest preventative. Water and electrolyte liquids should be consumed in large quantities both before and after physical activity, the expert said. Younger and older people, he noted, need to exercise extra caution since their bodies are less able to regulate their exposure to extreme temperatures.
Strange stated the following measures we can take to lower the danger of heat exhaustion or heat stroke:
- putting on looser, lighter garments to help you cool off
- avoid drinking and eating large meals.
- stay away from sunburns
The Red Cross advises taking these actions if you notice someone experiencing heat stress:
- call 9-1-1 right away if they start to vomit or lose consciousness.
- place the individual in a cool or shaded environment.
- give them iced water to sip on carefully.
- apply ice or cold towels to the wrists, ankles, groin, underarms, neck, and head.
Rivadeneyra pointed out that the fastest way to quickly cool someone is to submerge them in cold water.
Extreme heat exposure can result in heat-related illnesses that can progress to heatstroke. Once the body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit, experts believe it becomes problematic. They also advise people without air conditioning to seek shelter from the heat at places like libraries, malls, and schools.