Heat Related Illnesses
It is important for us to recognize the early signs of heat-related illnesses and what to do about them.
A Message from the Department of Health and Human Services, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC)
During normal weather, the body's internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body. However, during periods of extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.
Serious heat-related illnesses include:
Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature. Body temperatures can reach dangerous levels. Warning signs include hot, dry, red skin (no sweating), rapid pulse, high body temperature, headache, loss of alertness, confusion, rapid and shallow breathing, and unconsciousness or coma. Emergency 911 should be called immediately. While waiting for assistance, cool the person rapidly with such methods as moving them to a shady or cooler area, using cool water, ice, fans, and loosening their clothing.
Heat exhaustion typically occurs when people over-exert themselves in high heat and humidity. Symptoms include heavy sweating, fainting, vomiting, cold, pale, and clammy skin, dizziness, headache, nausea and weakness. Move the person to a cool place, have them drink fluids and rest, loosen their clothes, and cool them off with water or wet cloths. Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke. So, if symptoms worsen or do not improve, get medical help.
Heat cramps are muscle cramps in the abdominal area or extremities (e.g. arms and legs) that often occur in people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity and as a result their muscles lose salt and moisture. The cramps are often accompanied by heavy sweating and mild nausea. Move the person to a cool place to rest, and apply firm pressure to the cramping muscle. The person can also gently stretch the cramped muscle and hold it for 20 seconds, and then gently massage it. Have the person drink some cool beverages such as water or a sports drink. The person should seek medical attention if there is no improvement or if the person has underlying medical problems.
Sunburn damages the skin and causes the skin to become red, painful, and warm after sun exposure. Medical attention should be sought if the sunburn affects an infant or if there is fever, fluid-filled blisters, or severe pain. Otherwise, the person should avoid sun exposure, apply cold compresses or immerse the burned skin in cool water, apply moisturizing lotion to the burn.
Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot humid weather and is most common in young children. The rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters and is most common in the neck and upper chest and in creases such as in the elbow and groin. Move the person to a cooler place and keep the affected area dry. The person can also use talcum powder to increase comfort.