Preventing Heat-Related Illness

September 29, 2003

As summer heats up and families spend time outdoors, the risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke increases.
Heat exhaustion occurs when a person cannot sweat enough to cool the body. Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, headache, dizziness or nausea and skin that is cool, moist, pale, or flushed. Mild cases can be treated at home.
In general, it is important to replenish fluids while active in hot weather. Water is always the best choice; however, iced tea or sports drinks will suffice. Sodas or alcoholic drinks will not replace water sweated out by the body.
Sometimes heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, requiring emergency medical treatment. Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer regulate its temperature. Symptoms include rising temperature, confusion, delirium or unconsciousness and skin that is hot, dry and red. Someone with heat stroke may stop sweating completely. Babies and older adults are most at risk. Heat stroke may develop without physical exertion.
The best medicine is prevention. Make sure to drink lots of water when outside, but if symptoms of heatstroke appear, seek medical attention immediately.

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