If you have stepped outside lately you probably noticed that it has been heating up outside. July and August are typically the hottest months in Nebraska. These are also the most common months for injuries related to heat occur. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are real medical conditions that can occur quickly if not prevented.
When we get hot our body sweats to “cool” us off. If the body is not properly hydrated in a heated environment, the body can’t sweat and symptoms of a heat-related injury start to occur. Most people will experience heat cramps and heat exhaustion first. These can progress to heat stroke if not taken care of properly. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. Most cases of a heat-related illness occur when people are active in hot and humid weather and don’t drink enough fluids. People with other medical conditions and elderly are more likely to be affected quicker and should be extra careful in hot weather.
Our bodies try to tell us if they aren’t getting enough fluids. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, vomiting, weakness, lightheadedness, headaches, and muscle cramps. The skin tends to feel warm and looks red. People generally tend to have fast breathing and will also have a fast heart rate or may even feel their heart “fluttering.” Heat exhaustion progresses to heat stroke when the body is no longer able to regulate its temperature. Heat stroke occurs when the body temperature is 104 °F or higher. Heat stroke will also cause central nervous system symptoms like confusion, difficulty walking, passing out, seizures, and sometimes hallucinations.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be prevented. Be aware of heat and humidity when you are outside. Do not exercise in extreme heat; choose to exercise in the cooler hours of the day if possible. Make sure to take breaks when exercising if you are feeling overheated. It is important to stay hydrated by drinking enough fluids. Do not drink large amounts at once, it is best to take smaller, more frequent drinks to stay hydrated. Wear loose, lightweight and light-colored clothing outside.
There are multiple ways to cool your body down quickly. Spraying yourself with cool water and sitting in front of a fan works well. You can also move into the shade or into an air-conditioned building if that is an option. Putting a cool washcloth or cold pack around your neck or in your armpits will also cool anyone down quickly. You can also try taking a cool shower, bath, or get in a pool if you are near one. Remember to stay cool and hydrated in this heat!