Summertime brings with it more medical conditions than any other season. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion and severe sunburns can cause serious problems for anyone that spends too much time in the sun, or simply works or plays too hard causing the body to lose a large amount of fluids through sweating, and thus, over-heating.
The definitions of heat exhaustion and heatstroke are:
1) Heat exhaustion- When body fluids are lost through sweating due to exercise, work, or play, in hot, humid conditions causing the body to overheat.
2) Heat stroke- This medical conditioning is more life-threatening. A person’s temperature has risen and the body’s cooling system, controlled by the brain, has stopped working to the point that brain damage or damage to other internal organs may result. Temperatures may reach as high or more than 105 degrees.
The body will cool itself through evaporation or sweat in high temperatures. The mechanism responsible for cooling the body may not work properly, especially in humid temperatures, causing exhaustion and dehydration. The body becomes dehydrated because of the loss of fluid and salts. These are known as electrolytes. When the body is not adequately replenished with fluids, disturbances in circulation occur, and the results are similar to a mild form of shock.
Symptoms associated with heat exhaustion:
1) Often pale with cool, moist skin
2) Sweating profusely
3) Feels faint or has collapsed
4) Complaining of headache, weakness, thirst and nausea
5) Pulse rate increased and core temp is more than 100 degrees F.
Heat strokes can come on very rapidly. If you already have an inability to produce sweat you may be more predisposed to this condition. As with heat exhaustion, a heat stroke occurs when the body’s cooling mechanisms are impaired. Another type of heat stroke occurs when healthy people are undergoing strenuous activities in a hot environment.
Symptoms associated with heat stroke:
1) Unconscious or has an abnormal mental status
2) Flushed, hot, and dry skin due to loss of fluids
3) Dizziness, confusion, or delirium
4) May have slightly elevated blood pressure at first that falls later
6) Rectal (core) temperature of 105 degrees of more
As with all medical problems, a doctor should be contacted or go to the emergency room if you are not sure of what is wrong, of what to do, or if the person is not responding to what you are doing for them. If you are confused about when to call the doctor here are some tips to help you decide:
1) Loss of consciousness, confusion, or delirium
2) Chest or abdominal pain
3) Inability to drink fluids
4) Continuous vomiting
5) Temperature more than 104 degrees
6) Temperature that continues to rise in spite of efforts to cool the person down
7) Anyone with other serious ongoing medical problems
The two kinds of people most likely to suffer from heat stroke are the elderly and infants and also, those who are taking antihistamines and certain types of medication for high blood pressure or depression.
Severe sunburn is one factor that can bring on either heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Sunburn results from too much exposure to the sun. Anyone can get sunburn if not properly protected. Sunburns are rarely fatal, however sun poisoning can be. A sunburn can be disabling and cause a lot of discomfort depending on the severity of the burn.
Sunburn can occur within as little as 30 minutes of being in the sun. A burn is due to long periods of exposure to UV radiation in which the skin becomes inflamed.
UVA and UVB rays refer to different wavelengths in the light spectrum. UVB is more harmful and responsible for skin cancer. It is important to remember that tanning beds produce both UVA and UVB rays.
You should seek medical attention for sunburn when your symptoms include:
1) Severe pain
2) Severe blistering
5) Nausea or vomiting
7) An acute problem with another medical condition
To avoid even a mild to severe sunburn one should take precautions against over- exposure to the sun. Wear clothing that covers more of your body, hats, sunglasses, and most importantly, sunscreen of at least between 15 and 30 SPF.
For the relief of sunburn pain it is suggested that you take aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
For mild sunburn, cool compresses applied to the skin will help alleviate the pain.
Cool baths are another good idea to help you find relief. Aloe is a natural substance that has been known to help the healing process and to help with sunburn pain. Avoid more sun exposure while you are healing from sunburn.
A sunburn cannot cause a 3rd degree burn, however a 2nd degree burn will occur when swelling and blistering develop in the affected area. A 1st degree burn consists of redness and pain to the touch of the sunburned area.
Although it is not always practical, avoiding the sun is the best way to keep from developing heat exhaustion, heat stroke or severe sunburn.