Heat Illness

Sharon Rekieta, Fitness and Wellness Director - 14th August 2013

Back to school ads show corduroy pants, long-sleeved shirts and pullover sweaters. Stargazers claim that we are nearing the end of the "dog days of summer."

However, in many parts of the country, including Central Texas where this blog originates, temperatures in the low 100s and high humidity will continue for a few more weeks or perhaps even a couple more months.

Heat can create serious health problems especially for the elderly, the young, the sick, those without access to air-conditioning and those who spend much of their time outdoors.

For those of us living in parts of the country that have been experiencing the extreme dog days of summer, being outside for any length of time can be a challenge to say the least.

If we are not smart about being outdoors, heat illness or heat stroke could occur.

Symptoms of heat illness include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Weak but rapid pulse
  • Headaches

Those experiencing these symptoms should quickly find shade or air-conditioning and drink water slowly. Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms do not improve.

If someone is unable to alleviate the symptoms of heat illness, heat stroke could follow.
Symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Extremely high body temperature
  • Red and dry skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

To help someone with heat stroke symptoms, call 911, help the person into a shady area or air-conditioning and start cooling the person with cool water and/or by fanning.

But take heart—all of the news is not dire.  There is much you can do to prevent heat illness:

Heat Illness Precautions

  • Stay in air-conditioned or shady areas during the heat of the day
  • Take frequent breaks when working or working out outside
  • Drink fluids including electrolyte replacement beverages, eat fruits with high water content and avoid alcohol, caffeine or large amounts of sugar
  • Start drinking fluids BEFORE going out into the heat
  • Plan strenuous activity for early morning or early evenings
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, dry-fit clothing
  • Wear sunblock, sunglasses and a hat

The best defense against heat-related illness is prevention.  Staying cool, drinking plenty of fluids, wearing clothing that breathes, and monitoring outdoor activities are the keys to staying safe and healthy.