By Jessica Peterson
The heat is on! The trail, parks and beaches are busy. It seems as though everyone is excited to be outside. But before you head outside for the day, be sure that you are ready for a day in the heat.
Heat illness can occur quickly on hot, humid days. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all generally brought on by heat and dehydration. While most of the time we may associate these conditions with athletes, a heat illness can happen to anyone.
A HEAT CRAMP is a muscle contraction that generally happens in the leg. These contractions are forceful and painful and generally are connected to heat, poor conditioning and dehydration. Heat cramps usually improve with drinking water, rest and a cool environment.
HEAT EXHAUSTION can also be a challenge during summer months. The signs of heat exhaustion include feeling weak, dizzy or worried. It may also include fainting, paleness, nausea and a slightly increased temperature.
Water, rest, ice packs and a cool environment should help. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it could lead to the more serious heat stroke.
HEAT STROKE can cause shock, organ damage, brain damage or death. Symptoms usually include skin that feels hot and dry, but not sweaty, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, confusion, frequent vomiting and high fever. It’s important to reduce the person’s temperature quickly. Have them to lie down in a cool place and remove unneeded clothing. Apply ice packs to the neck, armpits and groin. Be sure to seek help.
The good news is that the sun doesn’t have to be the bad guy. You can still enjoy the outdoors and the sunshine. So as you are packing up for the beach or park, be sure you are ready to handle to heat. Bring water, sunscreen and maybe even a sun umbrella for some shade.
Jessica Peterson is a health educator with Douglas County Public Health. Public Health’s mission is to prevent, promote and protect the health and environment of residents.