Many northern communities in the United States are used to the winter thermometer dipping into negative numbers, but summer heat can often rival the challenges of a cold, snowy winter. As we move into August, one of the hottest months of the year, temperatures can easily exceed 100 degrees F, bringing the threat of heat illness and heat-related afflictions. Regional director of Mayo Clinic Health System Urgent Care, Ruth Bolton, M.D., offers this important preventive information.
Q. What is heat illness?
A. Heat illness is exactly what it sounds like — a sickness caused by heat. Heat illness can take multiple forms, each ranging in severity. The different types of heat illness, from mildest to most dangerous, include heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Q. What are the symptoms of heat illness?
A. As heat illness progresses from cramps to exhaustion to stroke, the symptoms become more extreme.
Symptoms of heat cramps include:
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include all signs of heat cramps, as well as:
Symptoms of heat stroke include all signs of heat exhaustion, as well as:
If you’re concerned you or someone else may be experiencing heat stroke, seek medical assistance immediately. Heat stroke is a medical emergency!
Q. How can I treat and prevent heat illness?
A. Fortunately, heat illness starts with mild symptoms, which you should heed as a warning to take precautions to prevent further complications. Here are some steps to treat and prevent heat illness:
Q. What causes heat illness?
A. Basically, heat illness is caused by your body’s inability to cool itself efficiently. This occurs when your sweat is no longer cooling your body to the required level. Some outside causes are hot weather, vigorous physical activity, dehydration, alcohol consumption and overdressing. People who are very young or old, obese or on certain medications are most susceptible to heat illness. Talk to your health care team if you are concerned about your risk.
As you head to the beach, out for a run or to do yard work, consider these tips to help you stay healthy in the heat. A few preventive steps go a long way in helping you avoid potentially serious heat-related complications.