Its no surprise that the heat is on in the southeast US. Heat indexes over 100F are expected through out the week.
So what does this mean? When heat and humidity increase, it lowers the ability for the air to absorb moisture. This causes the body to slow down the cooling process that sweating provides. We all need to take precautions while working. This includes drinking more water, adding an electrolyte drink, regular breaks from physically demanding tasks, and looking out for each other.
The big thing to look out for is a heat injury. This can be in the form of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. This includes a spectrum of conditions with minor symptoms such as prickly heat or heat rash, progressing to heat cramps, then heat exhaustion, and finally to heat stroke, a life-threatening medical condition.
- Prickly Heat is a heat type of rash that occurs when the body is exposed to hot weather and excessive sweating. It can be as simple as a rash or to the extreme of having blisters.
- Heat Cramps mainly affect the main muscles you are using, such as the thigh and leg (quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius), the core muscles (abdominal wall and back) and the arm muscles (biceps, triceps). These muscles involuntary spasm from exertion and dehydration.
- Heat Exhaustion is caused when sweating from exertion is not enough to cool the body. Some symptoms include nausea, dizziness, confusion, excessive sweating, dilated pupils, and moist clammy skin.
- Heat Stroke happens when the body’s cooling system fails. The body temperature spirals out of control usually greater than 106F, sweating stops, and there are mental status changes like confusion, seizure, or coma. Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation!
Treatment for heat-related illness generally includes moving the individual out of the hot environment, implementing cooling measures as needed, rest, and rehydration. If the person is confused or to the point of fainting/ passing out, emergency services should be called immediately.
Heat injuries are not to be taken lightly. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 618 people die each year due to heat in the US. Take additional precautions at home as well. Young children and the elderly need to be observed closely.