Heat stress is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or by doing physical activity in hot weather.
Form of Heat Stress
There are three form of Heat Stress. Heatstroke is the progression of two worsening heat-related conditions. When your body overheats, you first may develop heat cramps. If you don't cool down, you may progress to symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as heavy sweating, nausea, lightheadedness and feeling faint.
The different forms of heat-related illness are points along a continuum of severity. If an individual shows signs of one form of heat stress, it implies he or she will develop a more severe form if no intervention or relief occurs.
1. Heat Cramps
Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs that may occur in association with strenuous activity. If you have heart problems or are on a low-sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps. If medical attention is not necessary, take these steps:
Ø Stop all activity, and sit quietly in a cool place.
Ø Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.
Ø Don’t return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Ø Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in one hour.
2. Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. It is the body’s response to an excessive loss of the water and salt contained in sweat. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, people with high blood pressure or heart problems, and people working or exercising in a hot environment. With heat exhaustion, the skin may be cool and moist. The pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. Other symptoms may include:
Heavy sweating, Muscle cramps, Tiredness, Weakness
Dizziness, Headache, Fainting, Nausea or vomiting
Treatment of heat exhaustion is usually simple; the person should rest in a cool place and drink an electrolyte solution or sports beverage to quickly restore potassium, calcium, and magnesium salts lost in sweating.
Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms worsen or if they last longer than one hour. Also seek medical attention if
Ø Symptoms are severe (i.e., vomiting or loss of consciousness) or
The victim has heart problems or high blood pressure. Severe cases may require longer treatment under medical supervision. If heat exhaustion is left untreated, it may progress to heat stroke.
3. Heat Storake
An extremely high body temperature (104oF or higher)
Red, hot, dry skin (no sweating) that may also be mottled or bluish
Headache Dizziness Nausea Delirium Mental confusion Rapid strong pulse Loss of consciousness Coma Convulsions
If you see any of these signs, you may be dealing with a life-threatening medical emergency. Have to call emergency service (ambulance) immediately. While you begin cooling off the person:
Ø Get him or her to a shady area.
Ø Cool the person rapidly using whatever methods you have. For example, immerse him or her in a tub of cool water; place in a cool shower; spray with cool water from a garden hose; sponge with cool water; or, if the humidity is low, wrap in a cool, wet sheet and fan vigorously.
Ø Monitor the body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101oF-102oF.
Ø If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
Ø Do not give the person fluids to drink.
Ø Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
Preventive measures of heat stress:
Ø Acclimatize your body (gradually expose yourself to heat and work).
Ø Drink plenty of water (one glass every 20 minutes) frequently to prevent dehydration.
Ø Wear clean, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabric.
Ø Take rest breaks in a cool or well-ventilated area.
Ø Take more breaks during the hottest part of the day or when doing hard physical work. Allow your body to cool down before beginning again.
“Prevention is better than cure”