- By Jason Howland
Mayo Clinic Minute: The dangers of heat-related illnesses
Extreme heat can be dangerous. Every year, thousands of people suffer symptoms of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Soaring temperatures are certainly a major culprit, but you also can get into trouble in moderate heat if humidity is high. Dr. Luke Wood, a Mayo Clinic emergency medicine physician, says everyone should know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, because people can be overcome no matter how thoroughly they prepare.
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When the temperatures soar, so does your risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
“When people are either overdressed for the conditions or they’re not drinking enough water, they are especially prone to developing symptoms,” says Dr. Wood.
He says symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, dizziness and profuse sweating. And symptoms of the more serious heat stroke include confusion or altered mental status [and] clammy skin. And you might stop sweating.
“That’s really a situation where they need to come in and be evaluated,” says Dr. Wood.
And it’s not just the heat. High humidity can cause heat-related health issues, too, especially if you’re dehydrated. So drink a lot of water.
“If somebody goes out into the heat and they’re already dehydrated, and it’s particularly humid weather, then they’re losing even more fluid,” he says.
If symptoms develop, get the person out of the sun. Find shade. Get them to drink cool water, and seek medical help if you suspect heat stroke. Dr. Wood says young children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable.