Senior man with towel suffering from heat stroke outdoors

How To Detect And Treat Heat Sickness

Here in the south, we have heat waves that keep us in triple-digit temperatures for days at a time.

Heat sickness is a real threat when you spend any amount of time outdoors.

Senior man with towel suffering from heat stroke outdoors

What is Heat Sickness?

It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of heat sickness — especially when our children are involved.

Heat sickness is caused by overexposure to heat, whether from the sun, a hot environment, or strenuous activity.

When temperatures soar, the body’s natural cooling system may begin to fail. As heat builds in your body, it can cause serious health issues.

People who are most at risk for heat sickness are those who are not used to heat, have chronic medical conditions, or are taking certain medications that can affect heat regulation. Older adults are also at increased risk, as are young children.

Heat sickness occurs when your body temperature rises to a level where it starts to affect your brain function.

How to Detect Heat Sickness

It can cause you to feel faint, lightheaded, or dizzy. You may also have a headache, nausea, or vomiting. If you are sweating a lot, your skin may feel cool and clammy.

The symptoms often begin with muscle cramping and continue to elevate from there.

The following are other signs that you may be experiencing heat sickness:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

If you are experiencing, high body temperature (above 103°F), hot, red, dry, or moist skin, rapid and strong pulse, or possible unconsciousness, call 911 immediately.

It is important to seek medical attention immediately as heat sickness can lead to heat stroke, which can be fatal.

How is Heat Sickness Treated?

Once the symptoms are recognized, be sure to move to a cooler location, lie down and loosen any clothing. Apply cool, wet clothes or cool water to your body. Sip water to restore body fluids. 

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to stop what you are doing and find a cool place to rest.

It is also important to drink plenty of fluids, preferably water or a sports drink. You should also avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages. If your symptoms persist, it is important to seek medical attention.

Heat sickness is treated by cooling down the body. This can be done by removing any extra clothing, applying cool compresses, and drinking plenty of fluids. It is also important to seek shade or air conditioning if possible.

If your symptoms are severe, you may need to be hospitalized to be cooled down with IV fluids and other medical treatments.

What are the Risk Factors for Heat Sickness?

The risk factors for heat sickness include:

  • Being out in hot weather for a prolonged period of time
  • Having a high body temperature
  • Exercising in hot weather
  • Wearing heavy or constrictive clothing
  • Being dehydrated

Having a medical condition that affects your ability to sweat or regulate your body temperature If you are at risk for heat sickness, it is important to take steps to prevent it.

These steps include:

  • limiting your time outdoors in hot weather
  • dressing in light, loose-fitting clothing
  • staying well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • taking frequent breaks if you are exercising in hot weather
  • avoiding alcohol and caffeine

If you experience signs of heat sickness, such as headache, dizziness, nausea, or muscle cramps, it is important to get out of the heat and into a cool environment.

Drink plenty of fluids and seek medical attention if your symptoms persist or worsen. Drinking water and keeping your body temperature regulated are important during the dog days of summer.