Stay Safe This Summer Know How to Cool a Heat Emergency
Every summer, you hear stories of people overcome by heat-related illnesses. Factors such as humidity, medication, exertion or dehydration can throw off the body’s natural cooling system and lead to health problems, according to Al Sacchetti, M.D., Chief of Emergency Medicine at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.
“Simple tips like drinking lots of fluids and seeking respite from the heat can help prevent emergencies,” said Larry Segal, D.O., Chief of Emergency Medicine at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County. “It also is important to know the different types of heat illnesses and warning signs so you can act fast to avoid serious complications or death.”
Heat cramps are painful spasms that target the stomach, arms or legs, said Dr. Sacchetti. “They occur when muscles are deprived of salt, which is often lost through excessive sweating, such as during a workout.” Follow these steps if you have heat cramps:
- Stop activity immediately.
- Drink clear juice, a sports beverage, or 16 ounces of water mixed with a teaspoon of salt.
- Avoid strenuous activity and get medical attention if cramps do not go away within an hour.
- Seek immediate help if you are on a low-sodium diet or have heart problems.
Heat exhaustion feels like the flu. It can occur suddenly, after several days of continuous heat exposure or as a result of dehydration, said Dr. Segal. Seniors, young children or individuals who work outdoors are at risk. Symptoms include:
- irritability or headache;
- fatigue and weakness;
- nausea or vomiting;
- heavy sweating or intense thirst.
Heat stroke is a true medical emergency that can be fatal, said Dr. Sacchetti. Symptoms include:
- high body temperature;
- the absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin;
- rapid pulse and trouble breathing;
- confusion, agitation or disorientation;