Heat Emergencies

Hot weather triggers a variety of medical emergencies. Heat-related incidents steadily increase during this time of year.  Even healthy people should be cautious in high temperatures.

Those with respiratory and other health problems should be especially careful.  Drink extra fluids but try to avoid beverages with caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol may cause dehydration. Stay out of the sun as much as possible.

The most effective ways to prevent a heat stress emergency are:
• Drink fluids often and before you are thirsty.
• Eat a healthy diet.
• If you must work outdoors, attempt to do so in the cool hours of the day or evening.
• Wear a hat and loose fitting clothing.

Heat-related injuries fall into three major categories:
• Heat cramps
• Heat exhaustion
• Heat stroke

Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that occur when the body loses electrolytes during profuse sweating or when inadequate electrolytes are taken into the body. They usually begin in the arms, legs or abdomen and often precede heat exhaustion. Treatment for heat cramps is to rest in the shade, get near a fan, spray person with water and massage the cramping area.

Heat exhaustion is a medical emergency. When a person is suffering from heat exhaustion they will perspire profusely and most likely be pale. It is best treated by taking the person to a cool place, applying cool compresses, elevating their feet and giving the patient fluids.

Heat stroke is the worst heat-related injury. The brain has lost its ability to regulate body temperature. The patient will be hot, reddish and warm to the touch. Their temperature will be high and there will be no perspiration. This is a medical emergency: call 911. The emergency care of heat stroke is to cool the body as quickly as possible. One of the best methods for cooling the body during a heat emergency is to wrap the patient in cool, wet sheets.

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