Preventions You Should Take in Extreme Heat

From heat exhaustion to heat stroke

Summer in Southwest Florida brings temperatures that often make it too hot for outside activities. Heat syncope (fainting spells), heat exhaustion and heat stroke are symptoms caused by a combination of dehydration and the body’s inability to dissipate the sun’s heat.

Heat exhaustion, the most common heat-related illness, can produce symptoms of fatigue, headaches, nausea/vomiting and muscle cramps. “Do not rely on thirst as the main symptom of dehydration because this does not indicate our hydration status,” saysKeith Burley, M.D., an emergency physician at Cape Coral Hospital.

Heat exhaustion may quickly develop into heat stroke, a fatal condition where the body’s core temperature can reach and often exceed 105oF. “This can occur when symptoms of heat exhaustion are ignored or inadequately addressed,” Dr. Burley says. “With heat exhaustion, you need to remove clothing. Cool down using ice towels and packs, and start hydrating by drinking water immediately. If you are unable to tolerate water, intravenous hydration in our emergency departments can help.”

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Irritability
  • Imbalance
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
To prevent heat-related illnesses when participating in outdoor activities:
  • Hydrate properly throughout the day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that individuals who weigh less than 90 pounds need five ounces of water— that’s 10 big gulps—every 20 minutes.
  • Plan ahead. Wear protective clothing/sunscreen and avoid the heat during the hottest part of the day, around mid-day. Let someone know where and when you are going outdoors. Bring a phone for communication emergencies.
  • Take frequent breaks. Move to shaded or breezy areas and wear clothing to allow for increased evaporative cooling.

Call 911 if you or others develop symptoms of heat stroke that are unable to be adequately treated.

Keith Burley, M.D.
Emergency Medicine
Cape Coral Hospital
636 Del Prado Blvd.
Cape Coral, FL 33990

Tags: Heat stroke, Heat exhastion, Emergency Services, Health & Wellness