Summer Heat Safety

In our last safety blog for the month of June, we will look at how to stay safe during times of extreme heat this summer. However, even if the temperatures aren’t extreme, overexerting yourself in any kind of warm weather can potentially become dangerous. 

Do you know the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke? What about the symptoms? Do you know the best way to help the elderly or young children in the summer heat? Read on for some important information that will help you avoid a dangerous, and life-threatening situation. 

Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke

Before you learn the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, it is important to understand that both of these life-threatening situations can be completely avoided by staying hydrated and limiting your time in the sun. 

Heat exhaustion

When the body loses large amounts of water and salt, usually due to sweating, heat exhaustion can occur. According to the National Safety Council, signs and symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Pale, ashen or moist skin
  • Muscle cramps (especially for those working or exercising outdoors in high temperatures)
  • Fatigue, weakness or exhaustion
  • Headache, dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate

If you notice, or experience, any of these signs/symptoms quickly move to an air-conditioned or cool area that is away from the sun. If possible, remove any tight or extra clothing and take a cool shower, or use cold compresses. Lastly, drink water!

Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heat stroke, a much more dangerous situation. 

Heat stroke

Heat stroke is what occurs if heat exhaustion is left untreated, and escalates. It is important that you seek medical help immediately if someone is suffering from heat stroke. Signs include:

  • Body temperature above 103 degrees
  • Skin that is flushed, dry and hot to the touch; sweating has usually stopped
  • Rapid breathing
  • Headache, dizziness, confusion or other signs of altered mental status
  • Irrational or belligerent behavior
  • Convulsions or unresponsiveness

When heat stroke occurs, call 911 immediately. After this, move the person to a cool place and remove any unnecessary clothing. You need to cool the person’s body, do this until their temperature drops to 101 degrees. 

Whatever you do, DO NOT force the victim to drink liquids, apply rubbing alcohol to the skin, or allow the victims to take pain relievers or salt tablets.

Summer heat with the young, elderly, and your pets

Suffering from heat exhaustion can happen more easily in those who are young (4-18 years old) and the elderly. In the summer, kids tend to be more active – which means more running and playing outside. With the elderly, it might be the opposite. If they find themselves stuck in a warm house or otherwise, they may have a harder time moving to a cooler spot. Or, if they are active outdoors, they can easily overexert themselves in a shorter amount of time. 

For kids

Make sure kids are taking a 10-15 minute break in a cool place for every hour of play outside. They also need to drink plenty of cool water; not soda or juice. If your kids are playing sports this summer, you can have them drink an electrolyte beverage like Gatorade. 

It is important to also mention the risks of letting your children play in a car during a hot day. They could potentially lock themselves in, and experience heat stroke, or death. On that note, never intentionally leave a child in a hot car. If you think you might forget a baby or child in the backseat, take off one shoe and leave it in the back with them. This will help you remember.

For the elderly

During extended times of high heat, it is important that you check on your elderly parents, friends, or neighbors. Make sure they seem alert, have cool drinking water, and that their residence isn’t too warm. Call 911 or take them to the emergency room if they seem lethargic or are acting strange. 

For your pets

Never leave your pet outside on a hot day. Even in the shade, they can experience heat exhaustion. Also, while it may seem like common sense, never leave your pet in the car during a heat wave. Every summer, there are cases of pets dying inside cars from heat stroke. The temperature inside a car can become dangerously hot in a matter of minutes.