Health Team

What you need to know about life-threatening heat

Posted June 19, 2018 6:13 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:17 a.m. EDT

— Extreme heat can be life-threatening for people who spend a prolonged amount of time outdoors. According to WRAL's Dr. Allen Mask, it's important to understand the health risks and how to avoid them.

Most people know that heat strokes can be dangerous -- the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool itself. Symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, hot dry skin, very high body temperatures and loss of consciousness.

Heat stroke can even lead to death or permanent disability.

Milder cases of heat exhaustion include symptoms of muscle cramping, headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and a weak, rapid pulse. The biggest defense is to be aware of heat-injuries and prepare ahead of time by doing the following:

  • Drink plenty of fluids the night before a big event and immediately before work or play. Water or sports drinks are fine; replenish every 15 to 20 minutes. Avoid alcohol.
  • Take frequent breaks, preferably in a cool area. Allow your body to adjust.
  • Wear light, loose clothing. Remember to include a broad-rimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Remember that the hottest part of the day is not the time to exercise outdoors or to do strenuous yard work. If you must work or exercise outside, very early in the morning or late in the evening is your safest option.

Additionally, never leave anyone in a parked car who may be unable to get out, like a child, a senior citizen or even a pet.

Heat Index, DMA

Those most at risk for heat related illness are infants, young children and adults over age 65. People with underlying medical problems also face special risk, including those with diabetes, high blood pressure and thyroid disorders.