Contact Physical Therapy has provided you and your patients with important information on heat illness below to lead a safe and healthy summer.
3 Key Stages of Heat Illness
Dehydration is an inadequate or imbalanced replacement of the fluids and electrolytes lost through excessive perspiration.
Heat Exhaustion is a heat-related illness that may occur after you’ve been exposed to high temperatures for several days and have developed dehydration. A person can experience water depletion which present with excessive thirst, weakness, headache and may even result in a loss of consciousness. They can also experience salt depletion, which includes symptoms of vomiting, frequent muscle cramps and dizziness.
Heat Stroke results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Dehydration plays a key role in heat stroke, and the combination can be deadly. It can lead to the failure of the body’s temperature control system. The medical diagnosis of heat stroke is when the core body temperature is greater than 105 degrees. Other common symptoms include nausea, seizures, confusion, disorientation, and sometimes loss of consciousness or coma.
Symptoms of Heat Illness
- Dry mouth
- Being irritable or cranky
- Seeming bored or disinterested
- Excessive fatigue
- Unable to perform activities as well.
- Loss of coordination, dizziness or fainting
- Profuse sweating or pale skin
- Headache, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Stomach/intestinal cramps or persistent muscle cramps
- Increase in core body temperature, usually above 104°F/40°C.
- Central nervous system dysfunction, such as altered consciousness, seizures, confusion, emotional instability, irrational behavior or decreased mental acuity
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Headache, dizziness or weakness
- Hot and wet or dry skin
- Increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure or fast breathing
How to Treat and Manage Heat Illness
- Move the person to a cool environment and rehydrate.
- Maintain normal hydration
- Resume activity after being properly hydrated. Any fluid deficits should be replaced within 1 to 2 hours after activity is complete.
- Hydrate with a sports drink, which contains carbohydrates and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) before and during activity is optimal to replace losses and provide energy.
- Hydrate throughout activity to minimize dehydration and maximize performance.
- Seek medical attention to replace fluids via an intravenous line if person is nauseated or vomiting.
With symptoms of heat exhaustion, it’s essential to immediately get out of the heat and rest, preferably in an air-conditioned environment. If you can’t get inside, try to find the nearest cool and shady place.
- Drink plenty of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverages.
- Remove any tight or unnecessary clothing.
- Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.
- Apply other active 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.
Heat stroke can be fatal, so if you suspect that a person may have heat stroke, immediately call 911 or transport the person to a hospital.
Other recommendations while waiting for paramedics:
- Move person to an air-conditioned area, or cool shady area if you cannot get indoors, and remove all 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.
- Fan air over the person 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.
After you’ve recovered from any heat illness, you will probably be more sensitive to high temperatures during the following few weeks. It is always best to avoid hot weather and heavy exercise or activity until your doctor tells you that it’s safe to resume your normal activities.