Key to Avoid Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke — Stay Cool

While rising temperatures are great for outdoor activities, getting too much heat exposure can pose a danger to your body.

Whether you’re out running, practicing outside or working in your yard, you could be putting your body at risk for heat exhaustion and even a heatstroke.

While heat exhaustion and heatstroke symptoms are similar, there’s a difference between these common heat-related illnesses — a heatstroke is a medical emergency.

With heat exhaustion, which can resolve itself with proper cooling, the person usually has cool, clammy skin and can sweat profusely. However, with heatstroke there is normally no sweating and the body loses its ability to cool down.

Other signs of heat exhaustion include a headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse and muscle cramps. Some people can get dizzy and fatigued. Although your body temperature might be slightly elevated, you will not have a high core body temperature with heat exhaustion. To treat heat exhaustion, finding an air conditioned space or shade should be your first intervention. Drink a lot of water, preferably a sports drink, or any non-caffeinated beverage. If you can, also spray down the body with cool water.

Heatstroke can present similarly to heat exhaustion, but can lead to severe problems. It is classified as a medical emergency and should be recognized early to prevent long-term complications or death. The body temperature of a person having a heatstroke can sometimes rise to 104 to 106 degrees. Because the body is no longer sweating and has lost its ability to cool itself, the skin becomes dry, red and hot. The person’s pulse can be either really fast or really slow during a heatstroke.

When a person is having a heatstroke and continues to stay in the hot weather or sun, they can experience confusion, disorientation, seizures and can even lose consciousness. After calling 9-1-1, the victim should be moved to a cool or shady place; external cooling should also be initiated by placing cold compresses under the armpits, back of neck and groin. If cold water immersion is available, the patient should be placed in an ice bath to help lower body temperature until a higher level of medical care can be initiated.

During the hot summer months, it is important to plan ahead in order to avoid putting yourself at risk for serious injury. Try to stay cool by doing physical activities in the morning or late afternoon, drink plenty of fluids and increase your rest breaks. It is the best way to avoid a trip to the emergency room.

Dr. Matthew Simmons is a board-certified physician in sports medicine and family medicine, and serves as the director of the Northside Hospital Cherokee Sports Medicine Program, providing care to high school athletes throughout Cherokee County.  If you have experienced a sports injury, call 770-517-6636 to discuss how we can assist you with your specific condition and return you to peak performance.

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