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Heat Stroke

Dehydration & Heat StrokeDuring very hot weather, it's important to be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, especially in children and the elderly. According to the American Red Cross, heat-related illnesses come in stages. At first, you may experience heat cramps, which are cramps that develop in the muscles of your body when you exercise in hot conditions. The cramps may be felt in the legs (Read about "Feet, Ankles and Legs"), arms or torso. Symptoms after that are considered signs of heat exhaustion. They can include:

If someone is experiencing heat cramps or heat exhaustion, they need to stop activities, get out of the sun and cool off right away. If steps are not taken to cool down, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke. At this point, sweating may stop, but the body temperatures gets very high. There can also be vomiting, loss of consciousness, hyperventilation and seizures. (Read about "Seizures") Heat stroke requires immediate professional medical care.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say each year more people in the United States die from extreme heat exposure than from hurricanes, lightening, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined. Over the past two decades, at least 7421 deaths that occurred in this country were attributed to excessive heat exposure. On average, approximately 300 people die each year from exposure to heat. Air conditioning provides the most protection from heat exposure and heat-related deaths. However, some people may be fearful of high utility bills and limit their use of air conditioning. Such action can place people who are already at risk for heat illness at increased risk.

Who's at risk

According to the National Center for Environmental Health, several factors affect the body's ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather. When the humidity is high, sweat will not evaporate as quickly, which prevents the body from releasing heat quickly. Other conditions that can limit the ability to regulate temperature include old age, obesity (Read about "Obesity"), fever, dehydration, heart disease(Read about "Coronary Heart Disease"), poor circulation, sunburn and drug and alcohol use.

It's important to be aware of the signs of heat-related illness if you or someone you know are in any of these high risk groups:

Taking breaks from activity and drinking enough fluids can help ward off problems.

It's also important to watch for signs of heat-related illnesses while you exercise in warmer weather. Warmer weather seems to inspire many of us to do more outdoor activity. But it's essential that we take a few precautions first.

One of the most important involves drinking enough fluids to avoid dehydration. (Read about "Dehydration") The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking six to eight ounces of fluid for every 15-20 minutes of exercise. It's also important to maintain body fluids by drinking enough water, even if you're not working out. The American Red Cross recommends eight glasses of water a day for normal activity. However, if your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him or her how much you should drink while the weather is hot. Lightweight, light colored, loose clothing can also help your body stay cooler. And using common sense helps too. If it's very hot or humid, postpone exercise to avoid the midday heat or move indoors to cooler temperatures.

Some other tips from CDC include:

Finally, the sun is often more intense on hot days, so don't forget to protect your skin from excessive sun exposure. (Read about "Sunscreen")

Related Information:


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