Hyperthermia: Too Hot for Your Health (cont.)

Being hot for too long can cause many illnesses, all grouped under the name hyperthermia (hy-per-ther-mee-uh):

  • Heat cramps are the painful tightening of muscles in your stomach area, arms, or legs. Cramps can result from hard work or exercise. While your body temperature and pulse usually stay normal during heat cramps, your skin may feel moist and cool. Take these cramps as a sign that you are too hot - find a way to cool your body down. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, but not those containing alcohol or caffeine. For more, please read the Heat Cramps article.
  • Heat edema is a swelling in your ankles and feet when you get hot. Putting your legs up should help. If that doesn't work fairly quickly, check with your doctor.
  • Heat syncope is a sudden dizziness that may come on when you are active in the heat. If you take a form of heart medication known as a beta blocker or are not used to hot weather, you are even more likely to feel faint when in the heat. Putting your legs up and resting in a cool place should make the dizzy feeling go away.
  • Heat exhaustion is a warning that your body can no longer keep itself cool. You might feel thirsty, dizzy, weak, uncoordinated, nauseated, and sweat a lot. Your body temperature stays normal, skin feels cold and clammy. Your pulse can be normal or raised. Resting in a cool place, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting medical care should help you feel better soon. If not, this condition can progress to heat stroke. For more, please read the Heat Exhaustion article.
  • Heat stroke is an emergency - it can be life threatening! You need to get medical help right away. Getting to a cool place is very important, but so is treatment by a doctor. Many people die of heat stroke each year. Older people living in homes or apartments without air conditioning or good airflow are at most risk. So are people who don't drink enough water or those with chronic diseases or alcoholism. For more, please read the Heat Stroke article.

The Signs of Heat Stroke

  • Fainting, possibly the first sign,
  • Body temperature over 104° F,
  • A change in behavior - confusion, being grouchy, acting strangely, or staggering,
  • Dry flushed skin and a strong rapid pulse or a slow weak pulse,
  • Not sweating, despite the heat, acting delirious, or being in a coma.