Despite the fact that most heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, a significant number of people die and suffer from extreme heat events every year in the U.S., say health officials.
Did you know that from 1979 to 2003 (the most recent stats I could find), more people died in the United States from extreme heat than from the combination of hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes? Fortunately, most heat-related deaths and illnesses are PREVENTABLE, according to U.S. health officials.
What is a Heat-Related Illness?
A heat-related illness is a medical condition that may occur as a result of heat exposure. Even short periods of high temperatures can cause serious health problems. Heat-related illness encompasses a wide range of conditions, from minor illnesses to life-threatening medical emergencies, even death.
Recognizing the Symptoms:
Heat Rash – is caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. And looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.
Heat cramps: strenuous activity or exercising in the heat causing painful muscle spasms in the arms, legs, or abdomen. Usually the body temperature is normal the skin will feel moist and cool, but sweaty.
Heat syncope (fainting): generally the sudden onset of dizziness or fainting after exposure to high temperatures. The pulse may be weakened, and the heart rate is usually rapid. As with heat cramps, body temperature is normal the skin is pale and sweaty but remains cool.
Heat exhaustion: is a warning that the body is getting too hot. Some signs may be nauseous, giddy, thirsty, weak, and sweating profusely. Again, the body temperature is usually normal with the skin usually cold and clammy. The heart rate (pulse rate) is normal or elevated.
Heat stroke: is a serious, life-threatening condition that occurs when the body loses its ability to control its temperature. Heat stroke is the most severe and often fatal form of heat-related illness, and requires immediate medical attention.
A symptom is a fever that rapidly rises to dangerous levels within minutes, usually above 104 F (40 C). Confusion, combativeness, bizarre behavior, feeling faint, staggering, strong rapid pulse, dry flushed skin, and lack of sweating are other symptoms. Delirium or coma can also result from heat stroke.
What to Do:
- Move the person to a cool spot (shade) and a restful position and help them rehydrate by sipping cool liquids if possible (avoid carbonated drinks or alcohol)
- Apply a cool damp cloth to the forehead, the back of the neck, the bottoms of the feet, and the chest or neck. Add Peppermint essential oil if you have it. (Sponge bath or body bath if extreme body temperature rise.)
While heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting), and heat exhaustion may all be present in mild degrees, you should always contact a doctor or seek emergency medical attention if the symptoms of these conditions are severe or worsen with time. Heat stroke is a true medical emergency. If a person has the symptoms of heat stroke, you should notify emergency services (911) immediately.
The Best Defense is Prevention!
- Drink more fluids (water is best), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
- Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol, caffiene or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Very cold drinks can cause stomach cramps so you might want to avoid them.
- Stay indoors and, if possible, in air-conditioned room. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library–even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.
- NOTE: Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- NEVER leave any person or animal in a closed, parked vehicle, even if the windows are a little open it will still become a ‘Hot-house’ is a very short amount of time.
If you must be out in the heat:
Take the time for proper planning and preparation, such as bringing along extra water for increasing fluid intake, wearing appropriate clothing and sunscreen, remaining in a cool environment, acclimating yourself to the hot environment, and using common sense. For example:
- Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.
- Cut down on exercise
- Try to rest often in shady areas
Any one of us at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, but some people are at greater risk than others. Be attentive and caring by check regularly on infants and young children, people aged 65 or older, those who have a mental illness or are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure.
Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008
Minnesota Department of Health
NCEH’s Health Studies Branch
NOTE: The advice shared in document has not been evaluated by the FDA. The products and methods recommended are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease, nor is it intended to replace proper medical help. Kindly understand that essential oils work to help to bring the body into balance – thus helping the body’s natural defenses to restore homeostasis