(RxWiki News) As the season changes and the temperature rises, the risk for heat-related health issues grows.
This risk is particularly high for the elderly and those with certain medical issues.
Here's what you need to know to stay safe in hot weather.
Hyperthermia and Heat Stroke
Hyperthermia is caused by the body's inability to regulate itself in hot environments.
Forms of hyperthermia include heat fatigue, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after being in the heat for a long period of time) and heat stroke.
Heat stroke is considered a life-threatening form of hyperthermia. During a heat stroke, your body is unable to control its temperature.
Signs of a heat stroke include a spike in temperature (typically above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), fast pulse, change in mental function, dizziness, nausea, red and dry skin, being unable to sweat and feeling faint. Heat stroke can cause damage to your organs.
Anyone experiencing a possible heat stroke should seek immediate emergency medical attention. This is especially true for the elderly.
What Increases My Risk?
Your risk for heat-related health problems is increased by age, high temperatures and certain lifestyle factors, as well as your individual health status.
People at the greatest risk for heat-related illness include infants and children up to 4 years old and those 65 years of age and older.
Furthermore, those with certain co-existing health conditions, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, poor circulation and mental illness, are at risk for heat-related problems.
Lifestyle factors that may increase your risk can include living in conditions without air conditioning and not understanding how to respond to hot weather conditions.
The following factors may increase your risk for hyperthermia:
- Reduced sweating caused by certain medications
- Inefficient sweat production
- Alcohol use
- Being very underweight or overweight
- Heart, lung or kidney diseases
- High blood pressure
- Taking several medications
- Age-related changes to the skin, such as poor blood circulation
What Can I Do to Stay Safe?
When it is hot and humid outside, doing the following can help you and those close to you stay safe:
- Try to stay indoors in cooler spaces.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Check on friends and neighbors who may face a higher risk for heat-related illness.
This is especially important for older people and those who have multiple chronic medical conditions. Experts also recommend staying indoors during air pollution alerts.
If you do not have air conditioning, senior centers, movie theaters, libraries and shopping malls are great places to spend the day in cooler air. Another great option is a cooling center set up by a local health agency.
What if I See Someone Having a Heat Stroke?
If you see someone who is experiencing a heat stroke, take the following steps:
- Call 911.
- Remove the person from the heat. Move the person to a shady spot, an air-conditioned location or another cool place.
- Cool the body by:
- Placing the person in a cool (not cold) bath or shower
- Spraying with a garden hose
- Sponging with cool water
If sponging, apply a cold, wet cloth to the armpits, neck, wrists and groin. Applying cold cloths to these areas can help cool the blood because the blood passes close to the surface of the skin at these locations.
Do not force the person to drink fluids.
Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions about heat-related illnesses.
Written by Digital Pharmacist Staff