Heat Illness: A Summertime Guide

Though summer is only a week old, extreme heat has already been grabbing headlines across the country.

With more higher-than-usual-temperature days expected — and several months of warm weather remaining — the risk for heat-related illnesses will not be disappearing any time soon.

Certainly, heat-stroke is the most serious form, but the many heat illnesses exist on a spectrum of increasing severity. Recognizing and acting on early signs and symptoms of these illnesses can ease the risk of symptoms progressing and the condition becoming more dangerous.

Heat Rash

Though not particularly severe, heat rashes appear when the body sweats more than usual, and the sweat becomes trapped in the skin, which presents as irritated skin — small, raised red blisters.

Ice and soothing topical creams can help relieve symptoms, and the condition should resolve itself in a couple of days.

Heat Edema

Sitting or standing in the heat for a long period of time can lead to fluid build-up in the hands and feet, causing swelling.

Elevating those extremities can relieve swelling, and avoiding the heat for a couple days will help protect against a repeat of the symptoms. If it continues to be a problem, though, compression garments are also an option.

Heat Exhaustion

Though less serious, heat exhaustion is the first sign that extreme heat is causing the body’s internal temperature to rise. Symptoms include excessive sweating, rapid heart rate, fatigue, muscle cramps, clammy skin, headache, and nausea.

That person should be immediately removed from the heat to a cool environment to avoid their condition and symptoms from worsening. Their skin should be cooled with wet towels and any unnecessary clothing removed while they consume nonalcoholic and non-caffeinated fluids. They should be monitored in case their symptoms do not resolve.

Heat Syncope

Standing or sitting for a long time in the heat before suddenly moving or rising again can lead to some people feeling dizzy or even causing them to faint.

If this should occur, that person should be taken to a cool place to lie down and consume fluids while their symptoms are monitored.

Heat Stroke

The most serious form of heat-related illness, heat stroke is potentially life threatening. Occurring when the body temperature exceeds 103, it is accompanied by a severe headache, nausea, confusion, a rapid heart rate, hot, dry skin, and could also cause loss of consciousness.

Heat stroke is a true medical emergency. An ambulance should be called, and the person should be taken to the nearest emergency department for treatment.

Take steps to stay safe in the summer heat.