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What Are the Signs of Heat-Related Illness?

As the weather reaches its hottest season in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s more important than ever before to recognize that heat can be very dangerous to human health and even life.

As the weather reaches its hottest season in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s more important than ever before to recognize that heat can be very dangerous to human health and even life. While those of us living in places like Arizona certainly aren’t unfamiliar with how dangerous intense heat can be, seniors from all over the country spend time in or move to sunny Arizona. And at Solterra, we want to emphasize how important it is to not be caught unawares.

In this blog, we’ll look at some of the common symptoms of heat-related illnesses so that you can identify them and how you should treat someone who is suffering.

What Are Symptoms of Different Heat-Related Illnesses?

The United States Centers for Disease Control recognizes five different types of commonly encountered heat illness:

  1. Heat rash
  2. Sunburn
  3. Heat cramps
  4. Heat exhaustion
  5. Heat stroke

1. Heat Rash

Heat rash is the least threatening form of heat-related illness, though it can still be quite uncomfortable. It manifests as clusters of small, red blisters that resemble pimples. These are usually on parts of the body with heavy blood flow, such as the neck, inside elbow, or groin. If you or someone else is developing a heat rash, move to a cool place, stay out of sunlight, and soothe the rash with skin powder.

2. Sunburn

Sunburn may be the single most commonly encountered heat-related illness, but it can still be dangerous. It’s identified by a reddish tint to the skin, which becomes warm to the touch and very sensitive. In extreme cases, the skin may start blistering.

To treat sunburn, keep affected body parts out of the sun, immerse them in unmoving water (such as a cold bath), or use moisturizing cream. Never break blisters. Sunburn is less common in darker-skinned individuals, but hardly unheard of.

3. Heat Cramps

Heat cramps occur when you’re strenuously exercising or exerting yourself in hot weather, due to a severe lack of fluid and electrolytes. These are characterized by higher-than-normal sweating as well as muscle pain or spasms. If someone is suffering from heat cramps, stop all physical activity, move to where it’s cool, and drink water or an electrolyte-replenishing sports drink. (Pro tip: in a pinch, you can drink pickle juice.)

4. Heat Exhaustion

exhaustion is a more serious form of heat-related illness. Like heat cramps, it is characterized by heavy sweating, but it also can result in, paradoxically, cold and clammy-feeling skin. Other symptoms include dizziness, headache, exhaustion (including fainting), nausea, and a rapid, weak pulse.

If you recognize heat exhaustion, then move the afflicted individual to a cool environment; put damp, cool washcloths on their body; and have them drink lots of water—in sips, not gulps. Too much water can induce vomiting. If symptoms last longer than one hour, contact medical help.

5. Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most dangerous form of heat-related illness. It is often confused with heat exhaustion but is much more severe. Heat stroke is characterized by high body temperature (potentially above 103 degrees Fahrenheit); skin that is dry, red, or hot; headache; nausea; confusion; and exhaustion. Like heat exhaustion, the individual may have a rapid pulse, but it will be fast and strong rather than fast and weak.

If you think a person is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 immediately because it’s a serious medical emergency. Until help can arrive, move the afflicted individual to a cooler environment and put cool washcloths on them, but do not give them anything to drink until a medical professional can assess the situation.

These are some of the common signs of heat-related illness and how to treat them. We hope you stay safe this summer.