Community Education-Heat Emergencies
Due to the events at the beginning of the month, we are adding the Community Education article for May a little later than normal. We would like to once again thank the sponsors of the Zac is Back fundraiser and all that attended. It was a great time had by all! With the summer months now upon us, we would like to discuss heat related emergencies. These are very common with people venturing outside in the higher temperatures.
What is a Heat Emergency?
As they sound, heat emergencies are conditions brought on by prolonged exposure to the sun/hot weather. There are usually three stages of heat emergencies that increase in severity. They are: Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion, and the most severe, Heat Stroke. Heat emergencies can progress either slowly or quickly. Prompt treatment is key along with removing the patient from the environment.
What is Heat Cramping?
Heat Cramping is the first stage of most heat related emergencies. In this stage, you will begin to experience muscle tightness and pain. This can occur whether active or inactive and appears most frequently in the elderly or small children, overweight patients, and people who consume alcohol on hot days without proper hydration.
What is Heat Exhaustion?
Heat Exhaustion is the second stage of heat emergencies. It is characterized by muscle cramping, dizziness, mild confusion, increased heart rate, headache, irritability, nausea and/or vomiting, pale skin, heavy sweating, and even fainting. These symptoms can also be the first visible signs of someone having a heat emergency. Due to the broad array of symptoms, it can be either mild exhaustion to severe.
What is Heat Stroke?
Heat Stroke is the final and most severe stage of heat emergencies. It presents with all of the above symptoms of heat exhaustion ALONG with a temperature of over 104 degrees, moderate confusion, hallucinations, rapid, shallow breathing, a rapid and weak pulse, seizures, and a loss of consciousness in which the patient may not regain consciousness unlike a fainting spell.
How do I treat heat emergencies?
Treating heat emergencies can be tricky if you do not know what to look for. Before treatment, call 911. The first step would be to remove the patient from direct exposure to the heat source. If the patient IS NOT nauseous or confused, you may give them water. If the patient IS nauseous or confused, do not give them water as it may actually induce vomiting and rapidly cool the body sending it into shock. If you do not have water, do not give the patient any drink with alcohol or caffeine as it will dehydrate them further.
For the advanced stages of heat emergencies, call 911, follow the above treatments along with adding a cool towel/ice pack to the armpit, inner thigh, and neck to help with cooling. DO NOT cool too quickly as again, it could lead to shock.
How can I prevent heat emergencies?
Prevention is the best way to avoid heat emergencies. It is recommended that you rest as often as possible, wear light colored clothing, drink water frequently, and avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine. Be prepared when at sporting or outdoor events by having wet towels and/or ice in coolers readily accessible.