Summer is here, and with it come long, hot days outside. But as temperatures and humidity go up, so does the risk of heat-related illness. Sweating heavily without replacing enough fluids can lead to dehydration or heat cramps. If the body cannot shed enough heat for any reason, there is a risk of heat exhaustion and, in extreme cases, heat stroke – a medical emergency.
Children are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, because their bodies do not get rid of heat as efficiently as adults’ do. To help ensure a safe, healthy summer, make sure you know how to prevent, recognize, and treat heat-related illness.
It’s forecast to be a long and hot summer, which means heat related-illnesses are likely to be on the increase. We look at the warning signs and how to keep cool over the holiday period.Soaking in the summer sun is one of life’s great pleasures – but you can have too much of a good thing.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can be serious problems. During a heat wave in 2003, between 2000 to 3000 people died from heat-related causes according to Health Protection Agency figures.
Heatstroke and heat exhaustion can affect anyone – but some people are more sensitive to the heat than others.
‘Elderly people are often the ones at risk because their health may already be frail, and they may be less able to deal with a sudden rise in temperature,’ says Dr Louise Selby, a GP based in Guildford, Surrey.
‘The young are also more vulnerable because they’re more sensitive to the sun and prone to dehydration.’People drinking alcohol outside in the sun will also be more prone to dehydration and less aware of the amount of sun they’re getting,’ she says.
Heat stroke facts
- Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia in which the body temperature is elevated dramatically.
- Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not promptly and properly treated.
- Cooling the victim is a critical step in the treatment of heat stroke. Always notify emergency services immediately.
- The most important measures to prevent heat strokes are to avoid becoming dehydrated and to avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather.
- Infants, the elderly, athletes, and outdoor workers are the groups at greatest risk for heat stroke.
It is best to take precautions to avoid hyperthermia. Do not perform strenuous activities in the extreme heat. If you are, make sure you are seeking shade and taking breaks often. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of water if you are outside in the heat. Do not exercise beyond your ability as extreme exercise can also cause hyperthermia.
If you feel any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion coming on, stop what you are doing immediately and seek treatment. You want to catch the problem before it turns into full blown heatstroke. Make sure that you are also watching out for your children in the summer. Make sure that they are well hydrated and they are not experiencing any of the symptoms above. Try to keep them inside on days were there is extreme heat.