Heat illnesses can range from mild symptoms like swollen feet to heat stroke, which may be life threatening. The best way to treat heat-related illnesses is to prevent them. Avoid traveling at the hottest parts of the day, bring sun protection, stay well-hydrated, and carry fans or other cooling devices such as wet cloths. Children and the elderly, as well as those with other medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes, are especially susceptible to heat-related illness.
Heat cramps are cramps of active muscles that typically occur during exercise in hot environments, especially if you are dehydrated or your sodium level gets too low.
Heat exhaustion is a spectrum of symptoms including dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and a rapid heart rate. These can be early signs of heat stroke.
Heat stroke causes the same symptoms as heat exhaustion as well as confusion, altered mental status, and an elevated body temperature (over 104 degrees F). You may stop sweating with heat stroke. Heat stroke can rapidly progress to coma and death.
At the first signs of any heat illness, move the victim to a cool area out of the direct sun and have them rest in a sitting or lying position. If the patient is awake, offer sips of cool fluids that contain electrolytes. There are many methods that can help lower body temperature quickly. Get the skin wet and fan it, immerse the victim in cool water,or apply cool packs or ice packs to the neck, armpits, and groin. Do not offer food or beverages to anyone who is very confused or unconscious or is vomiting.
If you have any concern for heat stroke, such as confusion, altered mental status, lethargy, vomiting, or a very high body temperature (over 104F), this is a medical emergency. Seek emergent medical care and cool the victim as quickly as possible.
For children age 17 and under
Children of all ages are at higher risk for heat stroke than adults. Immediately move to a cool location and begin cooling measures for any child feeling nausea, shortness of breath, fatigued, excessively thirsty, weak, dizzy, or confused while out in the heat. If symptoms do not improve within 10-15 minutes of cooling, seek emergency medical care. Make sure to bring sun protective clothing and hats for children and avoid direct sun exposure.
See also: Pediatrics
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