Summer is here – especially in Texas, where the temperatures will be in the 90’s and higher for the next few months. Our employees work outside, so taking care of themselves in hazardous climates is important. This will be the first in a series on taking care of your health in hot weather conditions.
It isn’t known what causes heat cramps; however, it is thought to be related to an electrolyte and mineral imbalance. Heat cramps will generally happen to muscles that are tired or fatigued by heavy work. People most at risk for heat cramps will work in a hot environment or people that sweat a lot. In order to prevent heat cramps, make sure you are staying hydrated, and keep cool.
Heat exhaustion can occur if you have been in the heat for days, and become dehydrated. Heat exhaustion can be from water depletion or salt depletion.
Water depletion symptoms can include thirst, weakness, headache, or loss of consciousness.
Salt depletion symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, regular muscle cramps, and dizziness.
People most at risk for heat exhaustion are children under the age of 4, and adults over the age of 65. It takes longer for these two demographics to adjust to the heat than other people. People with certain health conditions (such as diabetes, heart, lung, or kidney disease, or high blood pressure) may be at a higher risk for heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is a serious condition that if not treated by a physician, can turn into heat stroke.
First Aid for Heat Exhaustion
- Drink plenty of fluid (avoid alcoholic beverages or drinks with caffeine)
- Remove tight or unnecessary clothing
- Take a cool shower, or bath
- Use fans or ice towels to cool the body temperature
If symptoms don’t improve in 30 minutes, contact a doctor immediately.
According the CDC, about 440 people die each year from heat stroke. This is the most serious form of heat injury. Call 911 immediately if you think someone has heat stroke. It can progress from lesser heat related illnesses, such as heat cramps, but can still occur if there were no warning signs or symptoms.
It occurs from exposure to high temperatures and dehydration. This causes the body to be unable to regulate its temperature.
- Extremely high body temperature
- Throbbing headache
- Muscle cramps
- Lack of sweat, regardless of the heat
- Red, hot, dry skin
- Rapid heart beat (strong or weak pulse)
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Confusion / Disorientation
- Loss of consciousness
First Aid for Heat Stroke
- Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone has had a heat stroke
- Move the person to an air conditioned room, or to a shady area
- Remove any unnecessary clothing
- Fan air over the patient while wetting the skin with water from a sponge or hose
- Apply ice packs to the armpits, groin, neck, and back
- Immerse the person in cool water or shower
Heat related illness can be serious, and, even life threatening. It’s important to stay hydrated and cool when working outdoors, or in the heat. If you feel like you are suffering from heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, notify someone immediately, and take a break! Be safe out there!
This article, in no way, can replace the diagnosis of a trained medical physician, and it is not designed to do so. If you have questions regarding your health, it is essential to seek a professional medical evaluation.