What is a Heat-Related Illness?
There are different stages to a heat-related illness, from mild annoyances to potentially fatal conditions.
As highlighted by WebMd, a more intense heat-related illness is usually caused when you’re dehydrated or when your body is unable to balance its core temperature, having lost more fluids and sodium than it can replace.
July is Heat Safety Month here at Superior Glove so today, we’ll be looking at five of the most common summertime heat-related illnesses, their causes, their symptoms and most importantly, how you can stay safe.
Prefer to Look at Pictures? Read our Heat Stroke Infographic!
Who is Most At Risk for Heat-Related Illness?
Construction sites, manufacturing facilities and automotive plants are all considered high-risk areas.
Even extended time spent outdoors with little physical labor, such as an afternoon at the beach, can prove problematic on more humid days.
Seniors, young children or those already with preexisting health conditions or medication use, have a much greater chance of contracting a heat-related illness.
Additionally, intensive outdoor exercise is also a common cause.
The Boston Globe recently reported on a study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. If not managed properly, the heat can also slow down your cognitive function.
If they apply to you, keep these things in mind when planning your next summer outing.
Below are our 5 most common heat-illnesses. Let’s see how to fight them, shall we?
Don’t let poor planning sneak up on you. Stay hydrated.
It may not be a critical condition in comparison to other illnesses, but even a minor sunburn, while painful, can also be the catalyst for long-term health complications.
It doesn’t take much to know you’re sunburnt. If you’re out in the sun for too long without proper protection or adequate sunscreen, your skin will become warm, red and irritated.
In more severe cases, you may even suffer from uncomfortable blistering.
What’s better than the beach and a cool breeze? The beach and sunscreen.<a< a=””>
How To Treat a Sunburn
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out, treating minor sunburns is simple and shouldn’t necessarily require a visit to your local emergency room.
Make sure the burned area is moisturized, out of the sun and above all else, do not break your blisters.
Give your body time to heal and with the proper amount of rest, considering the severity of the burn, the initial irritation should be gone within a few days.
However, if you find your burn doesn’t heal with these precautions, make sure to seek out more-advanced medical help.
For your long-term well-being, it is in your best interest to practice good skin care.
According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, melanoma, often caused by overexposure to UV rays, is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with close to 10,000 deaths occurring every year.
Although usually affecting the skin, melanoma can also develop on the eyes, mouth, nails and feet and can impact any individual, regardless of their personal characteristics.
To keep yourself safe, avoid tanning beds, regularly apply an appropriate amount of sunscreen and stay out of direct sunlight during the warmer hours of the day.
#4: Heat Rash
Much like a sunburn, a case of heat rash can cause a great deal of discomfort if not treated effectively. Heat rash is noticeable by small areas of inflamed skin, typically in high-moisture areas, such as the neck, chest or elbows.
Stay safe out there, beach-goer. Heat rash can be painful.<a< a=””>
How To Treat Heat Rash
The Mayo Clinic underlines that most heat rash cases can be diagnosed by your doctor and usually only require the application of specific ointments to limit any additional swelling.
If necessary, book an appointment with a dermatologist.
#3: Heat Cramps
Heat cramps are unexpected spasms in your major muscle groups, brought on by overexertion in hot weather, that can cause significant distress if not treated right away.
Like standard muscle cramping, heat cramps are mainly caused by tightness in key areas: your quadriceps, hamstrings, abdomen and arm muscles and although they shouldn’t last too long, they can be quite painful.
It helps to take care of your muscles, especially in hot weather.
Even the professionals make sure to stretch.<a< a=””>
How To Treat Heat Cramps
As provided by MedicineNet.com, there are a few warning signs to look for, while also being aware of proper treatment techniques.
- Many heat cramp-related incidents are a result of dehydration and lack of sodium. If you’re outside, drink plenty of water.
- Your muscles can also become tight from overuse, especially if you’re working in direct heat or performing a rigorous activity. Make sure you’re properly protected.
- In addition to muscle spazzing, heavy sweating is also a strong warning sign that someone is suffering from heat cramps. In some cases, they may also be a warning for possible heat exhaustion.
Treatment for heat cramps can usually be done by the affected person. Stretching the strained muscles, replenishing your fluid levels and moving to a shaded area should allow your body to recover. If not, seek out a doctor.
Although there aren’t generally any long-term consequences associated with basic heat cramps, it helps to make sure you’re not putting yourself at unnecessary risks for future incidents.
Make sure to condition your body properly if you know you’re going to be outside for an extended period.
#2: Heat Exhaustion
If heat cramps are left untreated or if the weather is hot enough, one’s condition may progress into heat exhaustion.
It isn’t much fun if the fish have more energy then you do.<a< a=””>
How To Treat Heat Exhaustion
If working outside or in a poorly-ventilated space, it helps to know the symptoms.
Healthline has a few tips.
- Dehydration and low sodium levels are a main contributor to heat exhaustion. As we’ve discussed already, if you’re working in heat, make sure you maintain consistent fluid levels.
- An irregular pulse coupled with a drop in blood pressure and dizziness.
- Faintness, sweating and cold skin, even in hotter temperatures.
- Muscle cramping.
To alleviate these symptoms, remove any heavy, tight-fitting clothing, move into an air-conditioned space and rehydrate using nonalcoholic beverages. If possible, lay down.
Following these steps, your condition should improve within a couple of hours. If not, you might have heatstroke.
We’ve discussed the dangers of heatstroke before but it cannot be understated just how deadly this condition is.
The Dangers of Heatstroke
- If your body temperature exceeds 104 F (40 C), it can quickly prove fatal. When in an exceedingly hot environment for long enough, your body begins to short-circuit.
- You can lose your ability to self-regulate temperature, sweat and keep vital portions of the body, such as the heart, kidneys and brain cool.
- It can lead to complete organ failure, disrupt the nervous system and if not treated right away, the chance of death will rapidly increase
If suspecting or experiencing heatstroke, do not hesitate: contact emergency medical services immediately.
To prevent heatstroke and other heat-related ailments, it helps to take a proactive approach before the circumstances become dire.
Stay hydrated, take breaks and dress appropriately for the weather.
Want more safety tips for staying cool while staying safe??
Watch our on-demand webinarDon’t Sweat It Keep Cool While Working Hard This Summer.