While you’re soaking up that summer sun, it’s important to take precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses from putting a damper on your day. Heat cramps, exhaustion and heat stroke can all occur when the body becomes overheated after being exposed to high temperatures.
Before heading out to enjoy the weather, here’s what you should know.
Stages of heat-related illnesses.
Starting to sweat? When you’re out in the heat, you lose water, salt and electrolytes. You need all these things to balance your body. Without this balance, you may start to show symptoms of a heat-related illness. There are a few stages that you may experience:
Level 1: Heat Cramps. The signs include sweating, painful muscle spasms, flushed skin and weakness or feeling lightheaded.
Level 2: Heat Exhaustion. This stage has signs that are similar to flu-like symptoms. You may have a headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting and/or lightheadedness when standing.
Level 3: Heat Stroke. This is an extreme and potentially fatal state to be in. You may experience chills, confusion, aggressive behavior, fatigue, slurred speech, memory loss, seizures and/or a high temperature of about 104°F.
How medications can impact you.
Some medications and drugs can put you at higher risk of heat-related illnesses. They can include:
Diuretics (“water pills” commonly used to treat high blood pressure)
Beta-blockers (blood pressure medication)
Antihistamines (allergy medication such as Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec)
Amphetamines (sometimes used to treat ADD, narcolepsy and Parkinson’s disease)
Antidepressants (such as Lexapro, Prozac and Zoloft)
It’s important to take extra care to prevent heat-related illnesses if you take any of these medications. Ask a doctor about the medications you take to be certain of any risk.
Steps to prevent heat-related illnesses.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to beat the heat while planning your day.
Stay inside with air conditioning during the hottest part of the day. Typically, this is between 1 and 4:30 p.m. When that is not possible or practical, try to stay in shaded and cool areas.
Drink plenty of water when you’re in the sun. When you’re in the heat, you will sweat and lose fluids. That means it is important to take in more fluid than you use. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol which will dehydrate you.
Be mindful of medical conditions that may affect your ability to deal with heat. If you have any of the following disorders, you may be more likely to develop a heat-related illness and should take extra care. These conditions include:
Rare disorders such as malignant hyperthermia
Talk to a Doctor 24/7
If you think you may be experiencing a heat-related illness or have questions about any medications that may increase your risk, our doctors are here to provide care and answers. If your school or employer provides you with First Stop Health Telemedicine, our doctors are here to provide 24/7 care you will love.