For many Houston Families, Summer means going to the beaches in Galveston, swimming pools, cookouts, and endless hours of fun in the sun.
But there are some serious heat-related illnesses that can ruin even the most perfect Summer days.
What Are Heat-Related Illnesses?
Prolonged or intense exposure to hot temperatures can cause heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke (also known as sun stroke). As your body works to cool itself under extreme or prolonged heat, blood rushes to the surface of your skin. As a result, less blood reaches your brain, muscles, and other organs. This can interfere with both your physical strength and your mental capacity, leading, in some cases, to serious danger.
By reducing excessive exposure to high temperatures and taking other precautionary steps, most heat-related illnesses can be avoided. Those who work in hot or humid environments — such as manufacturing plants, bakeries, or construction sites during summer months — are most at risk. However, even long, hot afternoons at the beach can pose problems if warning signs are ignored.
With prompt treatment, most people recover completely from heat-related illness. However, heat stroke can be deadly if not properly managed.
What Causes Heat-Related Illnesses?
Heat-related illness can strike anyone. But chronic alcoholics, the elderly, the young, the obese, and individuals whose immune systems may be compromised are at greater risk, as are individuals taking certain drugs, such as antihistamines, anti-psychotic medications, and cocaine. High humidity also increases the risk of heat illness because it interferes with the evaporation of sweat, your body’s way of cooling itself. The reasons that people have heat related illnesses can be broken into two main categories:
- Exercise-associated heat exhaustion or heat stroke and
- Non-exertional classic heat stroke
Heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke all occur when your body cannot cool itself adequately. But each is slightly different.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses large amounts of water and salt through excessive sweating, particularly through hard physical labor or exercise. This loss of essential fluids can disturb circulation and interfere with brain function. Individuals who have heart, lung, or kidney problems or are on low-sodium diets may be particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion.
As in heat exhaustion, heat cramps can strike when the body loses excessive amounts of fluids and salt. This deficiency, accompanied by the loss of other essential nutrients such as potassium and magnesium, typically occurs during heavy exertion.
Heat stroke, the most serious of the heat-related illnesses, occurs when the body suffers from long, intense exposure to heat and loses its ability to cool itself. In prolonged, extreme heat, the part of the brain that normally regulates body temperature malfunctions. There is a decreases in the body’s ability to sweat and, therefore, cool down. Those who have certain medical conditions that decrease the body’s ability to sweat — such as scleroderma or cystic fibrosis– may be at greater risk of developing heat stroke.
Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you don’t replace lost fluids, you will get dehydrated.
Anyone may become dehydrated, but the condition is especially dangerous for young children and older adults.
The most common cause of dehydration in young children is severe diarrhea and vomiting. Older adults naturally have a lower volume of water in their bodies, and may have conditions or take medications that increase the risk of dehydration.
This means that even minor illnesses, such as infections affecting the lungs or bladder, can result in dehydration in older adults.
Dehydration also can occur in any age group if you don’t drink enough water during hot weather — especially if you are exercising vigorously.
You can usually reverse mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids, but severe dehydration needs immediate medical treatment.
The Heights Emergency Room in Houston, TX Offers 24 Hour Emergency Care. Our unique, state of the art facility includes an On-site Lab & Pharmacy, Private Patient Rooms, and Best of all, No Wait Time. You can be seen by a Board Certified ER Physician Immediately.
The Heights ER is located off of 610, at the corner of North Loop & Yale. (Next to the Whole Foods 365). Stop by our facility today, or call us at (713) 588-0320