The human body typically does a good job maintaining and regulating temperature, but in some cases, extreme heat and excessive sweating can result in complications. Some common types of heat-related illnesses include heat cramps, heat syncope, heat stroke, and dehydration.
Heat cramps are muscle cramps and spasms that occur as a result of exercise and overheating. This reaction is related to an imbalance of electrolytes in the body. Excess sweating disturbs the sodium balance, causing chemical changes in the body, which, in turn, can lead to muscle cramping.
Heat syncope refers to feeling dizzy, faint, or actually fainting as a result of the heat. Heat syncope occurs as a result of a loss of blood flow to the head. Reduced blood flow is often associated with standing upright for a long period of time in the heat.
Heat stroke is a very serious heat-related illness in which the body is no longer able to control and maintain temperature. In a heat stroke, the temperature rises very rapidly, and the individual is unable to sweat to cool down. This is very dangerous as heat stroke can cause severe damage to the internal organs such as the kidneys, heart, and brain as well as causing death. Heat stroke is a medical emergency; call 911 immediately if you or someone you know is at risk of heat stroke.
Image Source: David McNew
For heat cramps, heat syncope, and heat stroke, move out of the sun and heat, find shade, remove heavy clothing, and cool down. Misting water on the body and allowing it to evaporate help the body cool down. Other cooling mechanisms include using ice packs, wet cloths, and cooling blankets.
An individual suffering from dehydration does not have enough fluid, preventing the body from functioning normally. Dehydration can occur for two reasons: reduced fluid intake or excess fluid loss. Reduced fluid intake is generally caused by not drinking enough water. Excess fluid loss, on the other hand, can occur in many ways. For example, diarrhea, sweating, increased urination, and even skin infections or diseases. Dehydration causes weakness and dizziness as well as dry mouth, confusion, palpitations, and increased thirst. Typically, dehydrated individuals will have a darker color of urine since the urine is more concentrated as a result of not having enough fluid for excretion.
To treat dehydration, it is necessary to replace the lost fluids. It is best to do so by drinking water or other fluids that contain electrolytes. In severe dehydration, it may be necessary to use an IV for rehydration.
It is important to be careful about heat-related illnesses because they can be fatal. Take precautions by staying hydrated and wearing proper sun gear. Be sure to check local weather forecasts and plan your day accordingly. Avoid vigorous exercise or exertion on especially hot days.
Feature Image Source: Sun ray by Deepak Sharma