Learn the Different Stages of Heat Emergencies and How to Help
HEAT STRESS – HEAT EXHAUSTION – HEAT STROKE
As temperatures rise, so does the stress on your body. Several things can help you battle the heat – acclimation to the heat, consumption of water and good nutrition.
Your body is a good regulator of heat. Your body reacts to heat by circulating blood and raising your skin’s temperature. The excess heat is released through the skin by sweating. Sweating can also maintain a stable body temperature if the humidity level is low enough to permit evaporation and if fluids and salts you lose are adequately replaced. When your body cannot release heat, it stores it which raises your core temperature and puts your health at risk.
HEAT STRESS (heat cramps) – When your body temperature rises even a few degrees above normal, you can experience muscle cramps, become weak, disoriented and ill. The six factors of heat stress are temperature, humidity, movement of air or lack of, radiant temperature of your surroundings (ie: working around a grill), clothing and physical activity.
Signs of heat stress (heat cramps) – tiredness, irritability, inattention, and muscle cramps which are painful intermittent spasms of the abdomen and other voluntary muscles. Heat cramps usually occur after heavy sweating and may begin towards the end of a workday.
First Aid for heat stress/heat cramps – drink fluids (water or Gatorade – not alcohol, caffeine or carbonated beverages) and move to a cool environment
HEAT EXHAUSTION – this develops when a person fails to replace fluids and salt that are lost through sweating. You may start to experience extreme weakness, fatigue, giddiness, nausea or a headache.
First Aid for heat exhaustion – rest in the shade or a cool place, drink plenty of water or Gatorade, loosen clothing to allow your body to cool and use cool wet rags to aid cooling.
HEAT STROKE – this is a life threatening medical condition that urgently requires medical attention. Sweating is diminished or absent, which makes the skin hot and dry. Body temperature is very high (greater than 105 degrees).
Signs of heat stroke – mental confusion, delirium, chills, dizziness, loss of consciousness, convulsions or coma, hot, dry skin that may be red, mottled or bluish.
First Aid for heat stroke – this is a medical emergency! Call 9-1-1. Brain damage and death are possible. Until medical help arrives, move the victim from the heat and into a cool place.
Cinda Seamon, Fire & Life Safety Educator with Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue