Hot Weather and Heat Related Emergencies
In hot weather or environments, our circulating blood must be directed to the vessels of the skin in order to radiate heat from the skin surface. When the nerves, which control the expansion and contraction of the blood vessels and the heart, are unable to meet the needs of increased circulation, we will collapse.
There are three basic classifications of heat emergencies:
These cramps are often an early sign of approaching heat exhaustion. Heat cramps occur as a result of not replacing the water in the body lost through sweating.
Signs and Symptoms: Profuse sweating, where electrolytes are lost from the body, causes slight muscle twitching in the abdomen and extremities which progresses to painful muscle cramps.
The victim does not usually lose consciousness but will complain of severe pain. Breathing may also be slightly impaired.
This condition, being very painful, is seldom considered life threatening.
What to do for Heat Cramps:
The best treatment is prevention, which includes drinking plenty of fluids.
Manual pressure and massage may give some relief to the cramped muscles. Cool the person down and have them rest. Administer water and fluids slowly.
Exposure to heat may occur outdoors in hot humid atmosphere but most often occurs in places such as commercial kitchens, laundries, shops, and other intense heat situations.
It usually follows eating plus drinking of iced liquids.
Signs and Symptoms
Heat exhaustion usually begins with dizziness, weakness, nausea, and vomiting.
The victim has a feeling of exhaustion and may experience difficulty in walking.
The victim's pupils will be dilated (opened wide), the pulse will be fast and weak, breathing rapid but shallow, and the skin will appear pale, cool, moist and clammy. Sweating will be excessive over the entire body and the victim may lapse into unconsciousness.
NOTE: This is a serious medical condition and the victim should be cared for immediately. Since the signs and symptoms are close to other medical emergencies, professional advice should be obtained.
What to do for the victim
Place the victim in a reclining position in a cool environment. The victim who has fainted should regain consciousness in a short time. Be prepared for them to vomit.
They should receive complete rest, in a cool environment, and given water when able to keep it down. Professional health care providers should see the victim.
Heatstroke / Sunstroke
Heatstroke can be recognized by the extreme elevation of the body temperature due to a failure of the body's temperature regulating mechanisms. It is caused by prolonged exposure to the direct rays of the sun, excessive indoor heat, too much clothing in a hot environment, and even medical conditions in conjunction with the heat.
Signs and Symptoms
Absence of sweating, dizziness, headache, weakness, mental confusion or delirium and unconsciousness are progressive symptoms.
The victim's skin will appear flushed, hot and dry.
In the early stages the pupils are constricted and later, as the condition progresses, they will dilate.
Pulse rate may be 160 or more.
Breathing will be rapid and usually resembles snoring.
Victim's temperature may rise rapidly to 105 degrees or higher.
Convulsions, vomiting, shock, and circulatory failure may follow, leading to death.
What to do
Call for emergency medical support immediately. If possible, move the victim to a cool environment and immediately apply cold cloths or ice packs to the head. In order to reduce body heat, wrap the body in cold water-soaked cloths and continue to pour cold water on the cloths until help arrives. Lay the victim on their side in the event of vomiting. Make sure they are positioned to maintain an airway. They must go to a hospital as soon as possible. Brain damage is the product of time as well as temperature.
This is a life-threatening emergency.
NOTE: Underlying medical problems and medications may increase a person's sensitivity to heat and sun. If you are taking medications, please consult with your doctor before spending extended periods of time in a hot environment or the sun.
If you need further information on heat related emergencies, please contact EOHS.