Dealing with the heat

Home Up


We may complain about the heat, but high temperatures can be dangerous for anyone. Particularly at risk are kids, the elderly, anyone with a chronic condition such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes, overweight people, athletes, and those who work outside or in hot areas. Also, certain medications such as antihistamines, blood pressure and heart medicines, diet pills, antidepressants and water pills affect how the body deals with the heat.

Most of us are at risk for a heat-related illness with the extreme temperatures we've been experiencing over the past few days.

That's why itís important to be able to recognize the symptoms of the big three high temperature illnesses: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. There may be a progression from one to the next, so catching the signs early can literally be a lifesaver. 

Heat cramps are muscle pains and spasms caused by exertion such as exercise or physically challenging work. The abdominal and leg muscles are typically affected.  If someone is suffering from heat cramps, they should be brought to a cool area and slowly given water to rehydrate.

Heat exhaustion is brought on when the body is unable to effectively cool itself. Often there is profuse sweating. Other symptoms include pale or flushed skin, headache, nausea, dizziness and weakness.  Someone with these symptoms should be moved to a cool place and encouraged to slowly drink water. If they are not feeling better within 30 minutes, contact a doctor or emergency personnel.

The most serious heat illness is heat stroke. This is a life threatening condition in which the bodyís temperature control system stops working.  The symptoms of heat stroke include hot, red skin, constricted (small) pupils and a high body temperature.  If you suspect heat stroke, call an ambulance. Brain damage and/or death can occur if the body is not cooled quickly enough. Follow the instructions of emergency personnel while waiting for paramedics. This may include cooling the body quickly with a cool bath or fans and treating for shock.

If you're unsure what is wrong, call 911 and have the person checked out. It is better to be sure than to wonder if you are right.

The American Red Cross has a safety check list for this kind of weather. Print a copy off and review it, the information could save a life.


How to deal with the heat

While staying cool is the best way, it often isn't enough. If you like being in the sun and playing, or just going out fishing, or any activity in the heat where it is hard to stay cool, here are some suggestions to help protect yourself and those you care about.

Wear light colored clothing. Dark clothes only attract the heat, not to mention the bugs. Make sure your clothes are light weight, too. That allows your skin to breath and stay cool.

Avoid alcoholic beverages. They cause the blood vessels to dilate and makes it harder for your body to release the extra heat. It can also make you unaware how hot you really are.

Drinking water is always a good idea, but drinking something with electrolytes is much better. Electrolytes allow the nervous system to operate correctly. If you don't have enough in your body you can suffer from a stroke, heart palpations, or even heart attack. Look for something like Gatorade, Power Aid, or other dinks with electrolytes in them.

Use a good sunscreen, SPF 50 is the best. While most everyone likes a good tan, it is better to protect your skin from the damage of the UV rays. Using sunscreen won't keep you from getting a tan, it will just take a little long.

Children can succumb to the heat as well. They often get active in play and don't think to drink or how to stay cooler. It is recommended that children be watched carefully for signs of heat related issues.

Be sure to keep these things in mind, and be sure to be safe this summer. The only way to enjoy the summer is when you are safe!


Last updated: 12/18/2020