Dangerously high temperatures are predicted in many parts of the U.S. this week, especially in the Southwest. The National Weather Service is estimating temperatures might hit at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit in Arizona and Southern California. But no matter where you are, it's important to remember the signs, symptoms and treatment for heat-related illnesses.
Heatstroke occurs when your body temperature rises rapidly and you're unable to cool down. It can be life-threatening, damaging your brain and other vital organs. It may be caused by strenuous activity in the heat or being in a hot place for too long. Heatstroke can occur without any previous heat-related condition, such as heat exhaustion.
Heatstroke signs and symptoms include:
If you suspect heatstroke, call 911 or your local emergency number. Then, immediately move the person out of the heat, and cool him or her by whatever means available. For example:
Let the person drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine, if he or she is able.
Begin CPR if the person loses consciousness and shows no signs of circulation, such as breathing, coughing or movement.
Dr. Ruth Bolton, regional director of Mayo Clinic Health System Urgent Care, says, "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 heatstroke." She adds, "If you’re concerned you or someone else may be experiencing heatstroke, seek medical assistance immediately. Heat stroke is a medical emergency."
Dr. Bolton says that, as heat illness progresses from cramps to exhaustion to stroke, the symptoms become more extreme. "Fortunately, heat illness starts with mild symptoms, which you should heed as a warning to take precautions to prevent further complications," says Dr. Bolton.
Symptoms of heat cramps include:
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include signs of heat cramps as well as:
Follow these steps to treat and prevent heat illness: