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Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke, and How to Prevent & Treat Heat-Related Illnesses

Especially during the summer months when the temperatures start heating up and more people are spending time outdoors, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are major causes for concern. While these are both heat-related illnesses, they are different and have their own distinct symptoms and early warning signs. So, to help you and your loved ones stay safe this summer out in the heat, here are some details about both heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as natural ways to prevent and treat the symptoms.

Photo credit: Ding Yuin Shan via Flickr

What is Heat Exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is a condition that commonly occurs when adults or children work or play in hot environments and excessively lose bodily fluids. When the body sweats excessively, your body temperature rises because it can’t cool itself off. You may also become dehydrated when this happens. However, heat exhaustion does not involve temperatures that exceed 104-degrees Fahrenheit.

When you have heat exhaustion, your skin may feel cool and clammy and look pale in appearance. You will likely be sweating a lot and feel dizzy or lightheaded.

What is Heat Stroke?

Heat stroke is a more serious form of heat exhaustion and results in body temperatures that reach or exceed 105-degrees Fahrenheit. Heat stroke can be deadly if it is not treated because the body can’t cool itself off and the brain begins to suffer damage. Organ damage will also result if heat stroke is not promptly treated.

If you are suffering from heat stroke, your skin will feel hot and dry. You may not even be sweating anymore because of severe dehydration. Hyperventilation, changes in blood pressure, and fainting may result, as well as coma in very severe cases of heat stroke.

How to prevent heat stroke  – Photo credit: Gene Selkov via Flickr

How to Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses

In addition to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, other heat-related illnesses are heat cramps, heat rashes, and heat syncope that causes fainting. All of these conditions are especially concerning when they affect young children, the elderly, and people who have other serious medical conditions.

Heat exhaustion is a precursor to heat stroke, so it’s important to notice the early warning signs and stop exercising, seek a cool environment, and drink water right away. As a precautionary measure, know what the weather conditions will be before you work or play outside on hot days and understand how your body typically reacts to heat. If you haven’t been exposed to hot temperatures in a while, chances are that your body will react more dramatically until you’ve been acclimatized to it. Drink more water than you feel is necessary on hot days and take frequent breaks in the shade or air conditioning.

Photo credit: Aaron Parecki via Flickr

Naturally Easing the Symptoms of Heat Illnesses

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more people die from extreme heat-related complications in the U.S. than from hurricanes, floods, lightning, tornadoes, or any other weather event each year. Once the signs of heat exhaustion (sweating, dizziness, etc.) appear, seek shelter in a cool environment, drink water, and rest. Also, remove tight-fitting clothing, take a cool shower or bath, and use ice packs to help bring the body temperature back to normal. If the symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical help to prevent the onset of a heat stroke. Enjoy the summer season, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and not overdo it with hot temperatures that your body can’t handle.

For sunburns that occur as a result of those hot summer days, make sure to stock your medicine cabinet with Bye Bye Burns to nourish damaged skin and help damaged skin layers recover and repair themselves. We also recommend having a bottle of Stop Rash on hand for unexpected cases of heat rash that occur due to hot weather.

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