Beating heat sickness

Howard At Play

July 16, 2000

Overexertion in extreme heat, especially without constant intake of water, can be life threatening. Heat plus humidity is bad enough; add direct sun, and things can worsen quickly. Maladies to watch for:

Heat cramps: Muscular pain, usually involving the abdominal or leg muscles. Symptoms: You'll know; cramps hurt.

Heat exhaustion: A form of shock sometimes compounded by clothing that prevents the body from cooling normally. Fluid loss that decreases blood flow to vital organs causes the problem. Symptoms: Cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache, nausea, dizziness, extreme tiredness.

What to do for cramps, or exhaustion: Find a cooler place. Rest comfortably. Slowly drink a half-glass of water every 15 minutes. No alcohol or caffeine; both can make things worse. Remove or loosen tight clothing; apply cool, wet cloths (towels or sheets).

Heat stroke, or sunstroke: With the body's control system malfunctioning, temperature rises so high that brain damage and death can occur without rapid cooling. Symptoms: hot, red and dry skin, changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; rapid, shallow breathing.

What to do: Get medical help fast! Call 911. Keep the person lying down in cool place. Fan the body, wrapped in cool, wet sheets. Apply cold packs to wrists, ankles, armpits, neck. Do not use alcohol, which closes pores and prevents heat loss. Watch for breathing problems.

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