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For most people, heat-related illnesses happen when temperatures are high for a number of days (particularly if the night time temperatures do not drop), or if the humidity is high. While the health risks related to heat are higher for certain groups (such as seniors, young children, people taking certain medications and people with chronic conditions), everyone is potentially at risk. Fortunately, most heat-related illnesses can be prevented or treated if you are aware of the risks, signs and symptoms.
This information can help you to plan ahead, and take action to protect yourself and your family.
Heat illness often starts with heat edema, heat rash, and heat cramps. This can progress to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These are the signs and symptoms to look for:
- Swelling of the hands and feet
Heat Rash (Prickly Heat)
- An area of small, itchy spots on the skin
- Painful muscle contractions following exercise in the heat
- Cramps begin an hour or more after you stop exercising
- Most often affects the muscles in the legs (calves and thighs) and stomach
- Cool, moist, pale, flushed, or red skin
- Heavy sweating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Body temperature may be normal
Anyone with these symptoms should, find a cool place to rest and drink plenty of fluids.
- Hot, red, and dry skin
- Changes in consciousness
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Body temperature may be very high
Heat stroke, also known as sunstroke is a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately if you are caring for someone, who has a high body temperature and is either unconscious, confused or has stopped sweating.
While waiting for help - cool the person right away by moving them to a cool place, if you can; applying cool water to large areas of the skin or clothing; and fanning the person as much as possible.