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Heat Related Illnesses and Your Health

Once the temperatures in Houston begin getting into the hundreds, the risk for heat related illnesses elevates. The CDC reports that 300 heat-related deaths occurred in the United States in 2001. While heat illnesses are most commonly reported by the young, the elderly and the obese, it can affect anyone. People who are taking antihistamines, anti-psychotic drugs, illegal drugs, alcholics, or individuals with compromised immune systems must also really watch out.

Types of Heat Illnesses

  • Heat Cramps are painful muscle spasms and cramping that occurs after intense exercise and/or sweating in high heat. Heavy exertion also causes potassium and magnesium levels to drop dangerously low.
  • Heat Exhaustion results from losing large amounts of water, salt and electrolytes from the body. It occurs when you are sweating profusely, but do not replace what’s been lost through drinking water or Gatorade. The body then becomes unable to cool itself. The lack of essential fluids disturbs circulation and brain functioning.
  • Heat Stroke is the most severe heat illness, which occurs when the body is overwhelmed by its inability to cool down during long, intense exposure to heat. By this point, the brain is not functioning normally to tell the body to sweat and a person can die without treatment.

Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness

The earliest signs of heat-related illness involve clammy, moist skin, flushed complexion and muscle cramping. A mild fever of 102 degrees is typical. Removing excess clothing, stretching, getting out of the heat, and drinking water or Gatorade can usually help at this point.

By the time heat exhaustion sets in, a person’s face has gone from red to pale. Headache, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, anxiety and nausea usually occur too. Vomiting, diarrhea and fainting spells are other possible symptoms.

The signs of a heat stroke include: a fever over 104 degrees, rapid heart rate, loss of appetite, vomiting, headache, fatigue, confusion, lethargy, and stupor. Seizures, a coma, or even death may occur if the symptoms are not treated by a medical professional at once.

Heat Sickness Treatment & Prevention

Your best course of action is to keep an eye on the weather forecast and avoid those extremely hot days. Stay inside, kick up your Houston air conditioning, and be well this summer! Air Depot professionals can stop by to do a system tune-up to make sure your system functions properly all season long. Or, if you don’t have central air conditioning — but are curious about it — then be sure to call us to learn more.

 

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