Heat Related Illnesses (cont.)

Other heat-related health problems

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body's salt and moisture. The low salt level in the muscles causes painful cramps. Heat cramps may be a symptom of heat exhaustion.

Recognizing Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms - usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs - that may occur in association with strenuous activity. If you have heart problems or are on a low sodium diet, get medical attention for heat cramps.

What to Do

If medical attention is not necessary, take these steps:

  • Stop all activity, and sit quietly in a cool place.
  • Drink clear juice or a sports beverage.
  • Do not return to strenuous activity until a few hours after the cramps have subsided as a precaution against further heat-related health problems.
  • Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in 1 hour.

Sunburn

Sunburn is damaging to the skin and whenever possible take measures to avoid getting a sunburn. The discomfort associated with a sunburn is usually minor with healing occurring in about a week. A more severe sunburn may require medical attention.

Recognizing Sunburn

Symptoms of sunburn are well known: skin becomes red, painful, and abnormally warm after sun exposure.

What to Do

Consult a doctor if the sunburn affects an infant under 1 year of age or if these symptoms are present:

  • fever
  • fluid-filled blisters
  • severe pain

Remember these tips when treating sunburn:

  • Avoid repeated sun exposure.
  • Apply cold compresses or immerse the sunburned area in cool water.
  • Apply moisturizing lotion to affected areas. Do not use salve, butter, or ointment.
  • Do not break blisters.

Heat Rash

Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It can occur at any age but is most common in young children.

Recognizing Heat Rash

Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.

What to Do

The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected area dry. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort, but avoid using ointments or creams-they keep the skin warm and moist and may make the condition worse.

Treating heat rash is simple and usually does not require medical assistance. Other heat-related problems can be much more severe.

Medications can increase the risk of heat-related illness

The risk for heat-related illness and death may increase among people using the following drugs: (1) psychotropics, which affect psychic function, behavior, or experience (e.g. haloperidol or chlorpromazine); (2) medications for Parkinson's disease, because they can inhibit perspiration; (3) tranquilizers such as phenothiazines, butyrophenones, and thiozanthenes; and (4) diuretic medications or "water pills" that affect fluid balance in the body.

One last hot tip....

These self-help measures are not a substitute for medical care but may help you recognize and respond promptly to warning signs of trouble. Your best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. Staying cool and making simple changes in your fluid intake, activities, and clothing during hot weather can help you remain safe and healthy.

REFERENCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Extreme Heat.
<http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/faq.asp&tg;

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety.
<http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.asp>


Last Editorial Review: 7/6/2010



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