Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Emergencies
The unrelenting heat wave we’ve been experiencing this summer is far from over and may worsen in the coming days meaning temperatures will continue to soar into uncharted territory, increasing the risk for heat-related emergencies in our area. At Supreme Care ER, we believe that it’s our responsibility as part of the medical community to create awareness about heat-related emergencies to help safeguard the lovely Texas communities that we serve.
What are Heat Emergencies?
When we speak of heat emergencies, we refer to health crises caused by prolonged or abnormal exposure to high temperatures and humidity.
The primary heat-related illnesses are dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. All three are serious; however, heatstroke can be fatal.
Dehydration is a serious heat-related disease that can turn life-threatening if left untreated.
It’s normal for our bodies to lose water through urine, sweat, tears, and stools. However, when we are overexposed to the sun or high temperatures, the rate at which we lose water increases causing us to lose essential minerals like sodium and potassium and become dehydrated.
Symptoms of Dehydration
- Feeling thirsty
- Urinating less frequently or in less quantity than normal
- Dry skin
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Dry mouth and mucous membranes
- Increased heart rate
Heat cramps are the mildest of the three severe heat illnesses and are usually the first stage of a heat emergency. Without proper treatment, heat cramps can escalate to a more serious condition.
Heat cramps are most common after being physically active but can also happen if you’ve been in the heat for a while without being active.
They are more likely to happen to children and the elderly or if you’ve been drinking alcohol or are overweight.
Symptoms of Heat Cramps
- Muscle pain and tightness usually in the arms, legs, and abdomen
- Muscle spasms
Heat exhaustion is your body’s response to severe dehydration, usually from excessive sweating. This heat-related illness happens when your body overheats in response to being in a high-temperature environment and loses its ability to cool itself down properly.
Heat exhaustion can happen to anyone, but people who exercise or work outdoors, those who spend long times in hot cars or work in hot environments, small children, and the elderly should be extra cautious during this time.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
These are some of the most common symptoms of heat exhaustion listed by the CDC:
- Heavy sweating
- Urinating less
- Elevated body temperature
Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat-related illness. It happens when your body’s temperature regulating system becomes overwhelmed by excessive heat and can no longer control your body’s temperature.
When heat stroke occurs, things escalate rapidly, with the body temperature rising to 104°F or higher in as little as 10-15 minutes. Unless the patient receives prompt emergency treatment, heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
Please call 911 or head to the nearest ER immediately should you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Altered mental status, including confusion
- Slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness, fainting
- Flushed, dry skin
- Profuse sweating
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Quick, weak pulse
- Very hot body temperature
Heat Stroke First Aid
While you wait for the ambulance to arrive, there are ways to help the patient:
- Move the person to a shaded cooler area
- Remove any sweaty clothing
- Apply wet towels to the face, neck, chest, and limbs
- If possible, place ice on the wrists, underarms, and groin area
- If the person is conscious, give them cold water or sports drinks every 15 minutes to help rehydrate them
- Fan the person’s skin
When to Go to the ER
Please seek immediate medical attention when you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from a heat-related illness. Remember that at Supreme Care ER we’re safe, fast, and open 24/7 offering free medical screening.
People on low sodium diets and those with heart conditions need to see a doctor immediately after exposure to high-temperature environments.
Warning signs that require medical attention include:
- Cramps lasting an hour or more
- Loss of consciousness
- Feeling confused, disoriented
- Trouble speaking
- Shallow breathing
- Rapid or weak heartbeat
At Supreme Care ER, we urge the members of our Texas communities to stay indoors in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible. If you need to be outside, please always carry a water bottle with you to help you stay hydrated. Remember that there is no need to ever have a doubt, should you be near 9530 Jones Road in Houston, you always have the option of dropping by for a free medical screening 24/7 including all holidays.