Heat Stress

Basic Terms
Heat Index
A number in degrees Fahrenheit that tells how hot it really feels when the relative humidity is added to the actual air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees.

Heat Cramps
Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. They usually involve the abdominal muscles or legs. It is generally thought that the loss of water from heavy sweating can cause these cramps. Treat by placing the person in a cooler place. Lightly stretch the affected muscles and replenish fluids. Electrolyte fluids should be diluted in at least half with water.

Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion occurs when people exercise heavily or work in warm humid places. Blood flow increases to the skin to aid in cooling. At the same time, blood flow decreases to vital organs. The result is a mild form of shock. If not treated or allowed to worsen, the condition may lead to heat stroke. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal. Treat this condition by placing the person in a cooler area. Remove or loosen clothing and apply wet towels or sheets. If they are conscious, give them small amounts of water to drink. Watch for changes in their condition. Follow up with medical attention.

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is life threatening! With heat stroke, the victims temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature may rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Immediate medical attention is necessary! Signs of heat stroke include hot, red skin, changes in consciousness, rapid, weak pulse, and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be very high- sometimes as high as 105 degrees. If the person was sweating form heavy work or exercise, skin will be wet; otherwise it will feel dry. Treat by first calling 911. Move the victim to a cooler place and immerse them in a cool bath or wrap sheets. Watch for signals of breathing problems. Keep the person laying down and cool them any way you can. If the victim refuses water, is vomiting or there are changes in the level of consciousness, do not give them anything to eat or drink.

Another term for heat stroke.

If a Heat Wave Is Predicted or Happening
Slow down and avoid strenuous activity. If you must do physical activity, try and do it during the coolest hours of the day, which is usually between the hours of 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. Stay indoors as much as possible. Use air conditioners or fans. Fans aid in causing sweat to evaporate, thereby cooling the body. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors will reflect away some of the sun's energy. Drink water often throughout the day- even when you are not thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine. Both can actually dehydrate the body. Eat small meals and eat more often. High protein foods increase metabolic heat, so avoid them if possible. Avoid salt tablets unless directed by a physician.