Spending time outdoors on a hot, humid day can be downright uncomfortable. If you’re not careful, it also increases your risk of heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Knowing the signs can save your life or others.
What is Heatstroke?
Heatstroke can cause serious health complications or even death. It occurs when your body struggles to regulate its temperature.
Although heatstroke can happen any time it’s hot, heat and humidity are an especially risky combination. That’s because the moisture in the air makes it more difficult for sweat to evaporate from your skin. Evaporation provides a natural cooling effect that prevents overheating.
It’s important to be able to identify common heatstroke symptoms. Knowing how to avoid heat-related illnesses that can lead to heatstroke can also protect your health this summer.
If you have heatstroke, you may develop one or more of these symptoms:
- 104°F fever or higher
- Rapid or shallow breathing
- Dry, red skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Weak, rapid pulse
If you or anyone else experiences these signs and symptoms of heatstroke, call 911 immediately. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive:
- Move to a cool place
- Remove extra clothing
- Lie down with legs raised and sip water or a sports drink
- Rest in a tub filled with cool (not cold) water
- Apply cool compresses to the groin, neck, and armpits will help lower body temperature
How to Prevent Heatstroke
Although heatstroke is a very dangerous condition, it's also very preventable.
Pay Attention to Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
Heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke if you don’t get out of the heat. Heat exhaustion symptoms may include:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Rapid heartbeat
- Pale skin
Look at the Heat Index
The heat index takes into account the air temperature and the effects of relative humidity. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends being extremely careful if you’ll be spending time outside when the heat index is 90°F or higher.
Make Hydration a Priority
If you’re outside on a hot day, be sure to drink water at least every 20 minutes to prevent dehydration. If you’re dehydrated, your urine will be dark yellow. You may urinate less than normal and feel dizzy, lightheaded, thirsty, or tired.
Check on Vulnerable People
Young children and older adults are more likely to develop heatstroke. So are people who are overweight, have health conditions such as heart disease, or take medications for poor circulation, depression, or insomnia. Check on them often and urge them to go inside or move to a shady spot if they begin to show signs of heat exhaustion.
Don’t Think You’re Immune
Heatstroke can affect anyone, even people who are physically fit. On hot and humid days, skip your workout or move it inside. Don’t perform strenuous activities. Pay attention to signs of heatstroke or heat-related illness.
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Double-check the Backseat
Pediatric vehicular heatstroke has claimed the lives of 883 children since 1998. If you’re traveling with children, always check your backseat when you arrive at your destination. Don’t leave your child in a hot car while you run errands, even if the windows are open. The interior of the vehicle can become dangerously hot in as little as 10 minutes.
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