By PJ Martin
With recent temperatures reaching 90-100 degrees lately the heat index is horribly detrimental to people and animals’ health. Anyone who works outside is in danger of a heat-related illness or even death due to a heat-related illness. It is important to know the signs of those illnesses and what to do to help.
We will start with the least serious and progress to the most dangerous heat-related illness.
Heat Rash – Probably everyone reading this has had heat rash at some point in their life. It is common in the summertime. The symptoms of heat rash are clusters of red bumps on the skin appearing most commonly on the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases. The treatment is to minimize or limit activities in the heat, use powders to keep the site dry, and ointments are also available over the counter.
Heat cramps present as muscle spasms or pain, usually in the legs or arms as a result of excessive sweating which depletes the body of salts and fluids. To treat, patients need to consume regular amounts of drinks that replenish electrolytes and carbohydrates (sports drinks).
Rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown) is rare – This is most likely to occur in endurance athletes, firefighters, the military, or someone in an accident and is undiscovered for some time. Rhabdo presents itself as muscle pain and swelling, dark urine (tea or cola-colored) or reduced urine output, and weakness. In a milder form, it is dehydration and overheating, but in its most severe forms, this can cause kidney failure and even death if left untreated.
Most people require IV fluids and electrolytes to counter the effects of dehydration, hospitalization may be necessary. The extreme cases may require physical therapy and dialysis.
Heat exhaustion is more serious. The symptoms are weakness, thirst, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, heavy sweating, irritability, fast heart rates, and elevated body temperature. Fainting may also occur.
Medical treatment is necessary for heat exhaustion. Take the person to a clinic or ER, or call 911. Move the person to a cooler area and remove unnecessary clothing such as shoes and socks. Use cold compresses on their head and neck or bathe the face in cold water. Encourage them to sip cool water. Stay with the person until medical help arrives.
Heat stroke is the most life-threatening heat-related illness. Symptoms are confusion, slurred speech, unconsciousness, seizures, or hot dry skin, a very high body temperature, and a rapid heartbeat.
If you think the person is having a heat stroke call 911 immediately or take them to the nearest ER.
Move the person to a cooler area and remove unnecessary clothing such as shoes and socks. Cool the person as fast as possible with cold water or an ice bath, wet the skin and soak clothing with cool water, and place cold wet compresses or ice on their head, neck, armpits, and groin areas. Stay with the person until medical help arrives.
Information was summarized from the following sites: https://www.cdc.gov, https://my.clevelandclinic.org, and https://www.osha.gov/heat-exposure/illness-first-aid.