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Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke Risks Increase as Temps Soar

Knowing signs and symptoms of heat illness can save your life

summer tips

During the summer months, you can expect a fair amount of heat and humidity. But many people don’t realize that spending prolonged time outdoors in the heat can lead to severe illness and even death. 

“Heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and heat exhaustion are serious medical conditions that can be prevented by simply following some simple rules when spending time outdoors,” says Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Hecktown Oaks emergency medicine physician John Wheary, DO.

First rule: Stay cool

Here are some tips on how to keep you and your family safe as temperatures soar this summer. 

  • Dress appropriately – Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Stay cool inside – Try to stay in the air conditioning as much as possible. If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, visit a mall or another public place with air conditioning. 
  • Limit time outdoors – Schedule your time outdoors when it’s the coolest, which is often morning and evening. 
  • Stay hydrated – Make sure you drink plenty of water. If you are thirsty, you may already be dehydrated.
  • Wear plenty of sunscreen – Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can lead to dehydration. 
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Dr. Wheary says that the very young and elderly are extremely sensitive to heat illness, but even those who are healthy and physically fit can succumb to heat illness. He says that athletes should take precautions in the heat and stresses the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and heat exhaustion. “Knowing the symptoms of a heat-related illness could make a difference between life or death for you or a loved one,” he says.

Signs of heat exhaustion

According to Dr. Wheary, heat exhaustion can cause:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Clammy skin

If you experience those symptoms, you should move to a cool place to rest and cool down. 

Signs of heat stroke

Heat stroke is more severe than heat exhaustion and is considered a medical emergency. If you or someone else develops these symptoms after spending time in extreme heat, it may indicate heat stroke:

  • Fever
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion

You should call 911 and move the individual to a cool place until emergency help arrives.

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