Heat emergencies are triggered by exposure to the sun and extremely hot weather. It is important to note that heat emergencies have 3 phases – heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. All of the 3 phases are considered serious.
Among those who live in areas that have warm climates or engage in sports during the summer season, it is vital to be familiar with the symptoms of heat emergencies. Prompt treatment during the early stages of these conditions can prevent progression to heatstroke since it can be deadly or result to lasting complications.
It is vital to call for an ambulance or bring the individual to the nearest emergency department if a heat illness is causing seizures, vomiting or loss of consciousness.
Indications of heat emergencies
Remember that heat cramps are the first stage of heat emergencies. This typically occurs when an individual has been physically active under the heat but can also occur among those who are not active.
It is likely to occur among small children or the elderly, overweight and those who have been drinking alcohol. Muscle pain and tightness are the indications of heat cramps.
- Muscular cramping
- Mild confusion
- Rapid heart rate or breathing
- Pale skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Extreme thirst
- Heavy sweating
If heatstroke is suspected, all the symptoms of heat exhaustion are present along with the following:
- Body temperature higher than 104 degrees F
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Irrational behavior or hallucinations
- Dry skin
- Loss of consciousness
Take note that sweating might be present in heatstroke and the individual has very dry skin due to dehydration.
Management of heat emergencies
When dealing with heat emergencies, it is vital that you are prepared particularly with the first 2 phases – cramps and exhaustion.
- Call for emergency assistance or bring to the nearest healthcare facility if the individual is vomiting, has seizures or loses consciousness
- Do not provide anything to drink that contains caffeine or alcohol
- Do not provide the individual with something to drink if vomiting or unconscious
- Move the individual to a cool or shaded area that is out of direct sunlight
- Massage the affected muscle in a gentle manner and stretch.
- Provide cool water or sports beverage to drink every 15 minutes
- Transfer the individual to a cool or shaded area
- Loosen up any tight clothing
- Apply damp, cool towels on the face, chest, neck and the limbs and fan the skin of the individual.
- Provide the individual with a sports beverage or cool water to drink every 15 minutes but instruct not to drink too quickly.
As one of the life-threatening heat emergencies, it is vital to call for an ambulance or bring the individual to the nearest emergency department. While waiting for the emergency team to arrive, you have to perform the following:
- Transfer the individual to a shaded area.
- Loosen up the clothing and remove those that are soiled with sweat
- Apply cool, damp towels on the face, limbs, neck and the chest.
- If ice is available, place under the wrists, underarms and the groin
- Fan the skin of the individual
- Offer the individual a sports drink or cool water to drink every 15 minutes if conscious