It’s summertime and the heat tends to last longer and is more extreme. Heat affects everyone differently. It is especially dangerous in individuals that are 5 and younger, and 65 and older, since their bodies have a harder time regulating their temperature. As the temperature outside begins to rise, it is important for people to recognize warning signs that are crucial for their health. While heat-related illnesses can differ greatly, they typically share certain symptoms. It is important to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses to understand how to combat them.
Common symptoms of heat-related illnesses include:
- Rapid heartbeat of more than 90 beats per minute
- Body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Throbbing headaches
- Difficulty walking
- Hot or dry skin
- Decreased sweat and tear production
Extreme heat is dangerous to all ages, especially since the risk of heat-related illness is expected to rise due to the changing climate. These heat-related illnesses include:
- Heat stroke, or when your body is unable to control its internal temperature
- Heat edema, or swelling in your ankles and feet when you get hot
- Heat syncope, or sudden dizziness after exercising in the heat
- Heat cramps, or painful, involuntary muscle spasms that occur during heavy exercise in hot environments
- Heat exhaustion, or when your body loses excess amounts of water and salt, typically through sweating
A common cause of heat-related illnesses is dehydration. Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluids than it has taken in. This means there is not enough water and other important substances, like electrolytes, in your body.
Anyone can become dehydrated, especially in the extreme heat which causes you to sweat out liquids faster. Seniors, infants, and children are more likely to be at risk of dehydration because they react slower to their sense of thirst, and are more likely to experience severe dehydration and vomiting when dehydrated. Regardless of age, if left untreated, dehydration can be life threatening. So, it’s important to drink water regularly, not just when you’re thirsty. Certain diseases, as well as medications, can also impact your ability to regulate temperature, so be sure to discuss these concerns with your physician.
While heat-related illnesses may have a great impact on physical and mental health, they are fairly easy to combat and prevent. Staying inside and wearing loose, cool clothing, as well as regularly drinking water, is the easiest way to prevent the development of heat-related illnesses.
Some tips on how to stay cool this summer and prevent heat-related illnesses are:
- Staying in air-conditioned buildings. Don’t rely on a fan as your main cooling source
If air-conditioning is not possible, go to cooling centers
- Try not to use a stove or oven to cook, as this will make your house hotter
- Try not to engage in very strenuous activities
- Get plenty of rest
- Taking cool showers or baths
- Check the local news for weather advisories and health and safety updates
- Don’t overdress
Contracting heat-related illnesses is preventable. If you or someone you know has symptoms of heat-related illness seek medical care immediately, and continue to check the local news for health and safety updates. It is possible to enjoy the warmer summer months comfortably with the right knowledge and preparation.
At MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center, we have resources to care for you or a loved one that has been affected by heat-related illnesses. Our Family Medicine physicians are uniquely trained to care for you as a whole person, which means they can provide you with routine health screenings and counseling on lifestyle changes in an effort to prevent heat-related illnesses before they develop. If you or someone you know is at risk of heat-related illnesses, our primary care physicians can assist you in finding the best way to combat the heat and stay safe during the summer months.