The hot weather is moving through our area, and Loyola physicians warn that high temperatures and a blistering heat index can be a dangerous combination. The elderly and the very young are the most vulnerable, but we all need to be on the lookout for signs of heat-related illnesses.
Prevention and planning are important when dealing with extreme heat, said Khalilah Babino, DO, an immediate care physician at Loyola University Health System. Here are some additional tips:
- Pre-hydrate. Even before you step out the door, start drinking water.
- Stay indoors in an air-conditioned or well-ventilated building.
- If you have to go outside, stay out of the sun.
- If you must be outside performing strenuous activity, be sure to drink water at least every hour even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Heat stroke is a common problem this time of year, Babino said. It is a potentially fatal condition that occurs when your core body temperature is elevated to 104 degrees F or greater and you develop abnormal mental status. It can lead to multi-system body organ damage.
Heat exhaustion is another common condition this time of year but is different from heat stroke since body temperature elevations are less than 104 degrees and symptoms are milder, Babino said.
Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion may include fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, pale skin, rapid heart rate and low blood pressure. Unlike heat stroke, people with heat exhaustion maintain normal mental status.
Since heat stroke is a medical emergency, it is critical to recognize the signs and symptoms quickly. Babino said that signs and symptoms of heat stroke are temperature hotter than 104 degrees with:
- Hot skin and redness
- Rapid breathing and heartbeat
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Muscle cramps or weakness
- Confusion, difficulty thinking
- Loss of consciousness
If someone has signs of heat stroke, 9-1-1 should be called immediately. While awaiting the ambulance, it is helpful to move the affected person to a cooler place, remove excess clothing and apply ice packs, if available.