With summer temperatures raising the mercury level, heat related illnesses can affect the unsuspecting individual. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are a continuum of illness related to the body’s inability to regulate its core temperature, usually due to hot temperatures in the setting of dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities.
Risk factors include obesity, dehydration, not being acclimated to the heat, alcohol or drug use, chronic illnesses, as well as young children and the elderly.
Heat exhaustion is characterized by body temperature of up to 103 °F and symptoms include headache, fatigue, lightheadedness, nausea, profuse sweating, extreme thirst, breathing quickly and lack of coordination. It is important that when these signs are noticed to cool the body down quickly to prevent to going into heat stroke. Take a cold bath, drink cool water without caffeine or carbonation and place ice on the body. Heat stroke is the more severe and life threatening version, and can in some cases lead to death due to multi-organ failure. Core body temperature is 104 °F or above and typically patients can get confused, delirious and not know where they are. They have hot and flushed – but dry – skin. Heat stroke can cause coma and death.
Prevention strategies include avoiding the hottest part of the day by keeping indoors or in the shade, not overexerting yourself, drinking a liter (quart) of water every hour you exercise. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and avoid alcohol.