Warning signs of heat stroke, exhaustion

  • Published
  • By 72nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron,
  • Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight
Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious and life-threatening heat-related illness. In certain circumstances, your body can build up too much heat, your temperature may rise to life-threatening levels, and you can become delirious or lose consciousness. If you do not rid your body of excess heat fast enough, it "cooks" the brain and other vital organs. It is often fatal, and those who do survive may have permanent damage to their vital organs.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:
· The victim's body feels extremely hot when touched.
· Altered mental status (behavior) ranging from slight confusion and disorientation to coma.
· Conscious victims usually become irrational, agitated or even aggressive and may have seizures.
What to do:
· Move person to a half-sitting position in the shade.
· Call for emergency medical help immediately.
· If humidity is below 75 percent, spray victim with water and vigorously fan. If humidity above 75 percent, apply ice packs on neck, armpits or groin.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is characterized by heavy perspiration with normal or slightly above normal body temperatures. It is caused by water or salt depletion or both (severe dehydration). Heat exhaustion affects workers and athletes who do not drink enough fluids while working or exercising in hot environments.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: Severe thirst, weakness, dizziness, confusion or disorientation, cramps, dehydration, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea.

The affected person often mistakenly believes he or she has the flu.
Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heatstroke.

Other symptoms:
· Profuse sweating
· Clammy or pale skin
· Dizziness
· Rapid pulse
· Normal or slightly above normal body temperature
· Fever of 104 degrees or greater
What to do:
· Sit or lie down in the shade.
· Drink cool, lightly salted water or sports drink.
· If persistent, gently apply wet towels and call for emergency medical help.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are painful muscular spasms that happen suddenly affecting legs or abdominal muscles. They usually happen after physical activity in people who sweat a lot or have not had enough fluids. Victims may be drinking water without adequate salt content.

What to do:
· Sit or lie down in the shade.
· Drink cool, lightly salted water or sports drink.
· Stretch affected muscles.