Royce Shook

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Serious heat-related conditions

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body gets too hot. This is the body’s reaction to losing excessive amounts of water and salt contained in sweat.

Symptoms: Heavy sweating, pale skin, fast and weak pulse rate, fast and shallow breathing, muscle weakness or cramps, tiredness and weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, fainting.

What to do: Move to a cool place (preferably air-conditioned) and lie down. Remove excess clothing, take small sips of cool fluids, and have a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath. Put cool packs under the armpits, on the groin or on the back of the neck to reduce body heat. If symptoms last for longer than one hour, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

Heat Stroke occurs when the body temperature is not controlled properly, and it rises above 40.5 °C. It is the most serious heat-related illness and is a life-threatening emergency. Immediate first aid aimed at lowering the body temperature as quickly as possible is especially important.

Symptoms: A sudden rise in body temperature, red, hot dry skin (because sweating has stopped – though the person may still be sweaty if they have been exercising), dry, swollen tongue, rapid pulse, rapid shallow breathing, intense thirst, headache, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, confusion, poor coordination or slurred speech, aggressive or bizarre behaviour, loss of consciousness, seizures or coma.

What to do: Call your emergency line (in Canada 911) and ask for an ambulance. While you are waiting for help, move the person to a cool, shaded area and keep them as still as possible. Remove excess clothing and give them small sips of water if they are conscious and able to drink. Bring their temperature down any way you can, for example by gently spraying them with cool water from a spray bottle or garden hose, soaking their clothes with cool water, or sponging their body with cool water. Place cool packs under their armpits, on the groin or on the back of their neck to reduce body heat. Do not give aspirin because they won’t help and may be harmful. If they are unconscious, lay the person on their side (the recovery position) and check they can breathe properly. Perform CPR if needed.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. It can cause brain damage, so get yourself or the affected person to a hospital. Don't fool around with heatstroke.

Heat rash is an itchy, painful rash commonly called 'prickly heat'. It is caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather, and particularly affects young children.

Symptoms: A cluster of red pimples or small blisters, particularly on the neck or upper chest, or in the creases in the groin, elbow and under the breasts.

What to do: Move to a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected areas dry (powder can help) and avoid using ointments or creams because they keep the skin warm and moist which can make the condition worse.

Dehydration occurs when the body doesn't have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions.

Symptoms: Dizziness, tiredness, irritability, thirst, dark yellow urine, loss of appetite, fainting.

What to do: Drink plenty of water or diluted fruit juice and avoid tea, coffee, and alcohol. Move to somewhere cool (preferably air-conditioned), and if possible, use a spray bottle filled with water to cool you down. If you have one, drink an oral Serious heat-related conditions solution such as hydrolyte. If you start to feel unwell, call your doctor, the nearest hospital emergency department.

Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity, causing the body to lose salt and water. This can lead to heat cramps.

Symptoms: Muscle pains or spasms. Heat cramps can also be an early symptom of heat exhaustion.

What to do: Stop all activity and lie in a cool place (preferably air-conditioned) with your legs raised slightly. Drink water or diluted fruit juice, have a cool shower or bath, massage your limbs to ease the spasms and apply cool packs. Do not go back to strenuous activity until a few hours after the cramps have subsided. If they continue for more than one hour, seek medical attention.

Summer is fun, a chance to enjoy the outdoors and expand our circle by still using social distancing and face-masks, so enjoy the wonderful weather while protecting yourself from the extreme heat.

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