With temperatures reaching as high as 33 degrees Celsius in parts of Metro Vancouver this week, it’s important be aware of the dangers of heat-related illness, including:
• Heat Stroke
• Heat Exhaustion
• Heat Cramps
• Heat Rash
While many of these heat-related illnesses have similar symptoms, they can affect the body in different ways.
Heat stroke occurs when the body loses its ability to regular its temperature. As a result, your body temperature can rise rapidly (within 10 to 15 minutes.) If you do not seek immediate treatment for heat stroke, permanent disability or even death can occur.
Warning Signs/Symptoms: High body temperature, red/hot/dry skin (without sweating), rapid pulse, severe headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness.
If you notice any of the aforementioned warning signs of heat stroke in yourself or someone else, it’s important to seek medical attention right away by calling 911. As you await for medical personnel to arrive, make sure yourself or the victim is in a shady or air conditioned area, and try different cooling efforts such as spraying down with cool water, using a cool wet towel, or sitting in front of a fan.
This is a milder heat-related illness that typically occurs after several days of exposure to warm temperatures and lack of fluids. Those most at risk of developing heat exhaustion are younger children, the elderly, and people with high blood pressure. You can also develop heat exhaustion as a result of working or exercising in a hot environment.
Warning Signs/Symptoms: Fatigue, sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fainting, headache, pale skin.
To decrease the symptoms of heat exhaustion, make sure you drink plenty of water, get lots of rest, and stay in an air-conditioned environment. Taking a cool shower can also help to relieve the symptoms of heat exhaustion.
If you’re noticing muscle spasms, this could be due to heat cramps, which usually occur as a result of exercising and sweating during strenuous activity in the heat. As you sweat, the body depletes of moisture and salt, resulting in the cramps.
Warning Signs/Symptoms: Muscle pain, spasms (generally in the legs, arms and/or abdomen.)
While medical attention is not usually necessary for heat cramps, you should still avoid strenuous activity until the cramps subside, as further exertion can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Make sure you also sit in a cool or air conditioned place, and replenish yourself with water or a sports drink. If your cramps persist after an hour, you should get yourself to a doctor.
Heat rash can occur at any age, though it is most common in children, and it is caused as a result of excessive sweating from hot weather.
Warning Signs/Symptoms: Skin irritation and rash (appearing as a small red cluster of pimples or blisters) on the neck, upper chest, in elbow creases, under the breasts, or on the groin.
Treating heat rash is quite simple. Dusting powder can provide relief, and it’s also a good idea to keep children in a cooler environment during extreme temperatures/heat waves.
While sunburn is sometimes minor, it can also be severe and cause quite a bit of damage to the skin. Over time, exposure to too much sun can also lead to melanoma (skin cancer.)
Warning Signs/Symptoms: Abnormally warm skin, red skin, skin inflammation, dry skin, skin that peels.
If you are going to be outdoors for prolonged periods of time, it is important that you wear a sunscreen (SPF 15 or 30) to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays. When treating sunburn, it is important to avoid sun exposure. Applying a gentle moisturizing lotion and cold compresses to the affected areas can provide relief. Also make sure you do not break any blisters that might appear as a result of the burn.