How to Avoid Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

While Mother Nature has sent us some milder weather our way, we know another heat surge is bound to hit us before fall gets into full swing.

Dr. Justin Puckett from Complete Family Medicine stopped by the set of Good Morning Heartland to discuss how damaging overheating can be.

Question: So, weâ??ve heard the words Dehydration, Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke thrown around, what are they and how do they differ?

Answer: Dehydration: Simple, you have not had enough water in to keep a proper balance. Heat Exhaustion occurs when you have been dehydrated for some time and exposed to heat. There are two types, water depletion and salt depletion. While you have some bad symptoms heat exhaustion isnâ??t immediately life threatening.

Heat Stroke occurs once Heat Exhaustion becomes end stage and begins to damage organs, and can lead to death.

Question: What are some of the symptoms of getting to hot?

Answer: The most common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Confusion

  • Dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration)

  • Dizziness

  • Fainting

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Muscle cramps

  • Nausea

  • Pale skin

  • Profuse sweating

  • Rapid heartbeat

For Heat Stroke:The hallmark symptom of heat stroke is a core body temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. But fainting may be the first sign.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Lack of sweating despite the heat

  • Red, hot, and dry skin

  • Rapid, shallow breathing

  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering

  • Seizures

  • Unconsciousness

Question: If one thinks they are getting too hot, what can they do?

Answer: If you, or anyone else, has symptoms of heat exhaustion, it's essential to immediately get out of the heat and rest, preferably in an air-conditioned room. If you can't get inside, try to find the nearest cool and shady place.

Other recommended strategies include:

  • Drink plenty of fluid (avoid caffeine and alcohol).

  • Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing.

  • Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.

  • Apply other cooling measures such as fans or ice towels.

If such measures fail to provide relief within 30 minutes, contact a doctor because untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.

After you've recovered from heat exhaustion, you'll probably be more sensitive to high temperatures during the following week. So it's best to avoid hot weather and heavy exercise until your doctor tells you that it's safe to resume your normal activities.

Question: What about Treatment for Heat Stroke?

Answer: If you suspect that someone has a heat stroke, immediately call 911 or transport the person to a hospital. Any delay seeking medical help can be fatal.

While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, initiate first aid. Move the person to an air-conditioned environment -- or at least a cool, shady area -- and remove any unnecessary clothing.

If possible, take the person's core body temperature and initiate first aid to cool it to 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. If no thermometers are available, don't hesitate to initiate first aid.

You may also try these cooling strategies:

  • Fan air over the patient while wetting his or her skin with water from a sponge or garden hose.

  • Apply ice packs to the patient's armpits, groin, neck, and back. Because these areas are rich with blood vessels close to the skin, cooling them may reduce body temperature.

  • Immerse the patient in a shower or tub of cool water, or an ice bath.

Heat exhaustion is strongly related to the heat index, which is a measurement of how hot you feel when the effects of relative humidity and air temperature are combined. A relative humidity of 60% or more hampers sweat evaporation, which hinders your body's ability to cool itself.

The risk of heat-related illness dramatically increases when the heat index climbs to 90 degrees or more. So it's important -- especially during heat waves -- to pay attention to the reported heat index, and also to remember that the heat index is even higher when you are standing in full sunshine.

What are some other things on can do to prevent overheating?

When the heat index is high, it's best to stay inside in air conditioning. If you must go outdoors, you can prevent heat exhaustion by taking these steps:

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat.

  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more.

  • Drink extra fluids. To prevent dehydration, it's generally recommended to drink at least eight glasses of water, fruit juice, or vegetable juice per day. Because heat-related illness also can result from salt depletion, it may be advisable to substitute an electrolyte-rich sports drink for water during periods of extreme heat and humidity.

  • Take additional precautions when exercising or working outdoors. The general recommendation is to drink 24 ounces of fluid two hours before exercise, and consider adding another eight ounces of water or sports drink right before exercise. During exercise, you should consume another eight ounces of water every 20 minutes even if you don't feel thirsty.

Avoid fluids containing either caffeine or alcohol, because both substances can make you lose more fluids and worsen heat exhaustion. If you have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; are on fluid-restricted diets; or have a problem with fluid retention, check with your doctor before increasing liquid intake.

Complete Family Medicine

1611 S. Baltimore

Kirksville, MO. 63501