As we wind up the summer, we still have a few hot days left ahead of us. Though we’re through the worst of the heat, it’s not quite time to turn off your air conditioner for good-we could still have another heat wave.
If your area is still feeling too hot for comfort, stay on your guard. Though fall is coming soon, you or a member of your family could still get a heat-related illness if you don’t take steps to prevent it. We’ve written previously about how to avoid indoor heat stroke, but below, we’ll help you learn the differences between the heat-related illnesses and how to treat each one.
This is the mildest heat-related illness you can get. Also called miliaria or prickly heat, it’s most common in babies. However, adults can get it too. Your odds of getting heat rash go up if the weather is hot and humid.
Heat rash happens when your pores get blocked, which means that sweat cannot reach your skin. Instead, the sweat gets trapped under the skin, causing bumps. Some people will only have mild symptoms: you’ll see small, red bumps that don’t hurt or itch in the affected area. However, others may get blisters or very deep lumps that itch intensely.
Heat rash isn’t serious. Most cases clear up without medical treatment. Wear loose-fitting clothes and cool off-if you can prevent yourself from sweating, your pores will get a chance to unclog. If the itching is too intense or painful or if it isn’t going away, see a doctor, but otherwise you can wait it out.
Heat cramps are not fun. You’ll experience short, painful spasms in your muscles, most commonly in your legs and shoulders. If you do intense manual labor or exercise when it’s hot, your chances of getting heat cramps go up.
Doctors aren’t quite sure what causes heat cramps. However, we do know that sweating excessively can lead to them, which means that they may be caused by electrolyte imbalances. Electrolytes are minerals in your bloodstream that carry an electrical current to your muscles, helping them contract. However, when you sweat, you lose water and electrolytes, meaning that your blood has too few to function properly.
Heat cramps are very painful, but they are not serious. Most cases disappear quickly on their own, especially if you rest and drink lots of water with electrolytes, such as a sports drink, to restore the balance in your bloodstream. However, if yours do not go away, seek medical attention. An intravenous injection, or IV, can be used to rehydrate you quickly and safely.
This heat-related illness is serious. If you’re in a hot area for a long period of time, your body may lose its ability to cool down, meaning your internal temperature will go up. This can have dangerous consequences, including these symptoms:
- Excessive sweating
- Cool, moist skin
- Fast heart beat
You can prevent heat exhaustion by staying hydrated, taking breaks from strenuous physical activity, and wearing clothes that let sweat evaporate easily. However, if you or someone around you shows these signs, you need to make sure to take them seriously.
Keep the afflicted person in a cool area, and make sure he or she drinks lots of a beverage with electrolytes. You need to get him or her to cool off: ice packs or a cold shower may help, but make sure that he or she rests. If the symptoms do not improve in an hour, or if they get worse, go to the emergency room.
Heat stroke is an emergency situation. If you see someone showing these symptoms, call 911 immediately:
- Excessive sweating or very hot, dry, red skin
- High fever
Heat stroke means that the body’s internal temperature has risen so much that it is affecting the brain. Without treatment, the person could sustain brain damage or even die.
While waiting for an ambulance, put the sick person in a cool area and loosen any tight clothing. If possible, put ice packs in his or her armpits, and position a fan so that air blows over him or her. If this person is conscious and capable, make sure that he or she drinks lots of cool fluids. You can also cool him or her down by pouring cool water over him or her.
Usually, before getting heat stroke, someone will show signs of heat exhaustion or heat cramps, which is why it’s important to pay attention to those symptoms. If you notice signs of any heat-related illness, make sure to take steps to cool off, or it could lead to something worse.
In order to stay cool through any heat waves we have left this summer, contact Glendale Heating and Air Conditioning. We can keep your air conditioner functioning smoothly so that your body stays comfortable and healthy.