Heat Illnesses. Common Heat Rash Sites

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1 Heat Illnesses Introduction Heat illnesses happen when the body becomes too hot and cannot cool itself. There are several different types of heat-related illnesses. This includes heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Heat illnesses are very common. They are dangerous and can be life-threatening if not promptly treated. However, preventing heat illnesses is easier than treating them. This reference summary will help you better understand the different types of heat illnesses and how to prevent them. Heat Rash Heat rash is a skin condition caused by sweating. Hot, humid weather prevents sweat from evaporating from the skin quickly. Heat rash can then develop. Heat rash looks like small, red bumps. The most common areas where heat rash develops are on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases. Treating heat rash is simple. You should move the person to a cooler place. Also, keep the area with the rash dry. Talcum powder can help with this. Anyone can experience heat rash. However, heat rash is most common in young children. Heat rash is the least serious type of heat illness. It is not lifethreatening. Common Heat Rash Sites Heat Cramps Heat cramps are another mild form of heat illness. Heat cramps are painful muscle cramps that are caused by sweating and exercise during hot weather. Usually these cramps are felt in the abdomen, arms, or legs. 1

2 A person with heat cramps may also have flushed skin and a mild fever. Sweating causes the body to lose salt and moisture. If you do not have enough salt in your muscles, your muscles will cramp and cause you pain. To treat heat cramps, you should sit quietly in a cool place. Drinking clear juice or sports beverages will help replace lost moisture and salt. You should continue resting for at least a few hours even after the cramps stop. If you start exercising too soon you could get heat exhaustion or heatstroke. You should contact your healthcare provider if your heat cramps do not go away after one hour of rest. Heat cramps are also a symptom of heat exhaustion. You are at an increased risk of heat cramps if you sweat a lot while exercising, especially in hot weather. Heat Exhaustion Heat exhaustion is when the body is unable to cool itself properly. It is more serious than heat cramps. Heat exhaustion is caused by extreme heat and sweating without salt and fluid replacement. Salt lost while sweating refers to minerals like sodium, potassium, and chloride which are present in the food we eat. Table salt is a good source of sodium and chloride; baked potatoes and bananas are good sources of potassium. They are also referred to as electrolytes. Heat exhaustion may develop over several days if you are not eating healthy and replacing enough of the salt and fluids lost while sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: Muscle cramps A fever of 102 F or higher Nausea or vomiting Diarrhea Weakness Tiredness Headache Fainting Paleness Rapid pulse 2

3 A person with symptoms of heat exhaustion should move to a cool place to rest. Place cool cloths on the skin. Use a fan to cool the person s body. Sports drinks should be given to replace any salt that the body may be missing because of sweating and poor nutrition. Sports drinks are not always an acceptable way of treating heat exhaustion. That is because sport drinks are rich in salt. If you are eating healthy on a daily basis, you are unlikely to need drinks with extra salt. You should contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms do not go away after one hour of rest or if they get worse. If your body temperature is 104 F or higher, you should go to the emergency room right away. If untreated, heat exhaustion can develop into heatstroke. Those at a higher risk of heat exhaustion include people working in a hot environment, elderly people, and people with high blood pressure. Heatstroke Heatstroke is the most serious type of heat illness. Heatstroke is when the body is overwhelmed by heat. It can be life-threatening and requires emergency medical attention. During a heatstroke, the body loses its ability to cool itself rapidly and efficiently. This causes the body temperature to rise quickly. If heatstroke isn t treated, it can cause death or permanent damage to important organs like the brain. Symptoms of heatstroke are not the same for everyone, but may include: A high body temperature of 103 F or higher Red hot skin that lacks sweat Rapid heart rate Headache Nausea or vomiting Dizziness Tiredness Confusion or agitation Unconsciousness 3

4 If a person has the symptoms of heatstroke, they must be treated by a healthcare provider. Call 911 so that you can begin cooling the person. You should make sure the person is in a cool place resting while you wait for the ambulance. You can also cool the person down with water, fans, and ice bags in the armpits and groin. If the person is alert, offer fluids. The longer treatment is delayed, the higher the chances are of developing serious complications or even death. Tests and Diagnosis Diagnosis of heat illnesses may be as simple as taking your temperature. However, if you have heatstroke or your healthcare provider suspects heatstroke, after you are examined you may have more tests. Low sodium or potassium in the blood may mean you have heatstroke. Also, blood tests can be used to check for signs of muscle damage. Your urine may also be tested if your healthcare provider thinks you may have heatstroke. Your urine will show if you are dehydrated or if your kidneys are not working properly. Both of these symptoms may be caused by heatstroke. Imaging tests like an x-ray may also be used in diagnosing heatstroke. If untreated, heatstroke may cause damage to internal organs. Imaging tests check for any damage. Prevention Heat illnesses are preventable. The most important action you can take to prevent a heat illness is limiting your time spent in the heat when the weather is hot and humid. You should also avoid demanding activities in hot weather if possible. If you can t avoid the hot weather, you should rest frequently in a cool place. Drink fluids to replace any lost. Sports drinks also replace the salt lost from sweating. 4

5 You should always drink more hydrating liquids, like water or sports drinks, when the weather is hot. This is true even if you are not exercising or doing any demanding activities. Alcohol, tea, coffee, and soda will cause you to lose more fluid and should be avoided. When you are in the sun, you should wear light-colored, lightweight clothing. Dark clothing absorbs heat and will make you hotter. Tight, heavy clothing will not allow the sweat to evaporate from your body unless it is made from materials that absorb moisture such as cotton. It is better to wear loose clothing that will allow sweat to evaporate from your skin. If you are not used to hot weather, take time to slowly adjust to it. Limit your exposure to the heat until you can better handle it. This may take several weeks, but it can help prevent heat-related illnesses. You should never leave anyone in a parked car when it is warm outside. This is a common cause of heat-related death in children. Even if the car is in the shade and the windows are cracked, it is never safe to leave any person or pet in a parked car in hot weather. Also, be aware of your risk. You should be extra cautious if you work in a hot environment, cannot avoid heat, take certain medications, or have a physical condition that increases your risk, such as obesity, fever, dehydration, poor circulation, or sunburn. Any symptoms of overheating should be taken seriously and dealt with quickly. Summary Heat illnesses happen when the body becomes too hot and cannot cool itself or when a person sweats too much. The four different types of heat illness are heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. 5

6 Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating. Heat rash can be prevented by dressing lightly in loose fitting clothing. Heat rash can be treated by moving to a cool place and keeping the area with the rash dry. Talcum powder is effective in treating heat rash. Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise. It is caused by a loss of salt in the muscles of the body. Heat cramps can be prevented or treated by drinking clear juice or sports beverages. To treat heat cramps, first move to a cool place. Heat exhaustion is an illness that precedes heatstroke. It is caused by heat and sweating without salt and fluid replacement. A person with heat exhaustion should be cooled with a cold cloth and a fan. Sports drinks and water should be given to relieve a person suffering from heat exhaustion. Heatstroke is a life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 106 F in minutes. Symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse and dizziness. Heatstroke can be prevented by frequently resting in a cool place. Use water, fans, and ice bags in the armpits and groin to cool down. 6

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