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Avoid Heat Exhaustion With These Tips

In this summer heat, use these tips to spot and treat heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Here on the East Coast and parts of the Central United States, we’re in the middle of a heat wave. It’s not the worst we’ve ever felt before, and it’s pretty common to have some intense heat in July, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous to human health.

Extreme temperatures combined with oppressive sun and humidity can cause a lot of problems for a human body that’s just trying to keep cool. Temperatures can feel like they're into the 100s when factoring in the sun and moist air. At that temperature the risk of heat cramps, exhaustion, and stroke all skyrocket along with the mercury level.

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Obviously, the best solution is to stay in an airconditioned house, but if that’s not an option, here are a few tips to spotting heat problems before they become medical emergencies and what to do if you are affected by a heat condition.

The least difficult heat-related illness is heat cramps. They’re like regular cramps, only more painful and happen when you exercise vigorously in a super hot environment. More often they happen after a hot yoga class, but you can get them in a summer heat wave too if you're exercising outside. You’ll probably also be sweating profusely and have flushed skin along with painful cramping sensations.

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If you get heat cramps, stop what you’re doing, get out of the sun, and hydrate up. If the cramps last longer than an hour, seek medical attention.

Next up, heat exhaustion. If you’re out in the heat and start feeling fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headache, and have cool and clammy skin, then you might be suffering from heat exhaustion. Like with heat cramps, stop what you’re doing, get out of the heat, and suck down a bottle of water. Taking a cold bath or jumping in some cool lake water can really help bring your temperature down too.

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After heat exhaustion comes the worst of all: heat stroke. This is when your body can’t stay cool anymore and your internal temperature starts rising above 104 degrees--just like a bad fever. At that heat, your brain starts to get affected. Confusion, delirium, hallucinations, slurred speech, and racing heart with shallow breathing are all symptoms of heat stroke.

As before, get out of the heat and get someplace cool immediately. Take a cold shower or bath with ice packs to get your temperature down as quickly as possible. Heat stroke can easily lead to brain damage so seek medical attention if symptoms don’t go away quickly.

To prevent any of these problems, wear loose and light clothing if you have to go outside and wear sunscreen. Sunburns make it harder for the body to stay cool, so lather up. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated, and if you ever notice that you’re super hot but have stopped sweating it means you’re dangerously dehydrated and in desperate need of water.

And if you really need to do something outside do it when it’s cool either in the morning or evening. Stay safe out there.

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