COOL-SPACE Cares: Heat Stress (Part 1 of 2)
This is the first part of a two part series. Keeping people cool is our business and keeping people safe is our priority. Heat Stress is a real threat in the hot summer months. In Part 1 of this series we will discuss Heat Related Illness (HRI), symptoms to look for and what to do if someone is affected by an HRI.
In many places across the globe summer means a time for vacation, fun in the sun and relaxation. To a lot of people, summer also means heat. Heat can be a good thing; especially if you’re not a fan of the cold. Don’t get too excited though, the sun's rays pose a greater threat that can put you and your health in at risk. That risk is heat stress.
Heat stress occurs when the body cannot get rid of excess heat. This causes your body’s core temperature to rise and your heart rate to increase. Because your body continues to store heat it can't get rid of, your body starts to react with negative effects. A person experiencing heat stress may start to lose concentration, have a hard time focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and even lose the desire to intake fluids. When the signs of heat stress are ignored the effects of heat stress will only get worse. The next stage of heat stress is often fainting, but if the affected person is not cooled down, heat stress can lead to death.
Types of Heat Related Illness (HRI)
Several factors contribute to heat stress. These include, high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects and strenuous physical activities. Maintaining a safe environment means understanding the different types of heat related illnesses (HRIs), symptoms to be aware, and the proper first aid needed. If you know the warning signs to look for you can treat heat related issues before they become a serious threat.
Heat stroke is the most serious HRI. When the body becomes unable to control its temperature, your body's temperature begins to rise rapidly, and your body's sweating mechanism fails. When this happens, your body is unable to cool down, resulting in a very dangerous situation. When heat stroke occurs, the body's temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or even higher within a time span of only 10 to 15 minutes. If treatment is not given Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or even death if emergency actions are not taken.
It is important to know the symptoms of heat stroke so that it can be treated immediately.
- Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
- Very high body temperature
- Death if treatment is delayed
- Call 911 for emergency medical care.
- Stay with the affected person until emergency services arrive
- Move the affected person to a cool, shaded area and remove outer clothing
- If possible, quickly cool the affected person with a cold water or ice bath; place cold wet clothes on the skin, wet the skin, or soak clothing with cool water.
- To speed cooling, circulate the air around the affected person
- Place a cold wet cloth or ice on the head, neck, armpits, and groin of the affected person.
While less severe than Heat Stroke, Heat exhaustion is still dangerous. Heat Exhaustion is the body's response to an excessive loss of water and salt which is usually due to excessive sweating. Those that are most prone to heat exhaustion are the elderly, those that have high blood pressure, and those working in a hot environment. While this is true, those that may not fall into the previously stated categories can also be affected.
- Heavy sweating
- Elevated body temperature
- Decreased urine output
- Take affected person to a clinic or the emergency room for medical evaluation and treatment
- If medical care is unavailable call 911
- Stay with affected person until help arrives
- Remove affected person from hot area and give them liquids to drink
- Remove unnecessary clothing like shoes and socks
- Cool the affected person with cold compressors or have them wash their head, face, and neck with cold water
- Encourage the affected person to take frequent sips of cool water
Heat syncope is a mild form of heat illness that usually results from physical exertion when it is hot.
- Fainting (short duration)
- Light-headedness during prolonged standing or suddenly rising from a sitting or lying position.
- Have the affected person sit or lie down in a cool place
- Have the affected person slowly drink water, clear juice, or a sports drink
Those who sweat a lot during strenuous activity are especially prone to Heat cramps. The strenuous sweating depletes the bodies salt and moisture levels. In muscles, low salt levels cause painful cramps.
Muscle cramps, pain, or spasms in the abdomen, arms, or legs
- The person affected by heat cramps should:
- Drink water and have a snack and/ or carbohydrate-electrolyte replacement liquid every 15 to 20 minutes
- Avoid salt tablets
- Get medical help if the person affected has heart problems, is on a low sodium diet, or if cramps do not subside within 1 hour
Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather.
- Looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters
- Usually appears on the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases
Those being affected by heat rash should:
- Go to a cooler, less humid environment if possible
- Keep rash area dry
- Apply powder to ease comfort if desired
- Not apply ointments or creams to the area
Next week in Part 2 we will focus on who is affected and how to avoid heat stress and HRIs in the first place.