The temperatures are rising and with more people working outside either for their jobs, or mowing yards or working in gardens, heat-related illnesses can occur.
There are three different levels of heat-related illnesses: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
"Heat cramps being the least severe of those and we generally don't think of heat cramps as part of the illness because it's one of those things that we don't oftentimes treat or have to seek medical advice for," said Dr. Brady Hesington, hospital specialist at Freeman Neosho Hospital. "Heat cramps are just basically when you get kind of the heavy sweat, kind of extreme fatigue. Then you may actually get some cramps in your muscles, arms and legs and belly."
Heat exhaustion is the step up from heat cramps.
"Heat exhaustion is a more serious sort of illness and this is what we usually start to think about when we think about heat-related illnesses," he said. "This is what probably many people have experienced where you get headache or severe headache often times, dizziness, sick to your stomach, your skin starts to feel kind of cool and kind of a moist sweat. Then you may also get muscle cramps with that."
The third common heat related illness is the most severe – heat stroke.
"Heat stroke is categorized by having a temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit and it comes with a plethora of symptoms," Hesington said. "Typically, your skin with heat stroke becomes very hot and dry, you don't sweat typically with heat stroke. You may have nausea or vomiting, skin becomes very flushed and red, your heart oftentimes races or your breathing increases and can actually lead to confusion or hallucinations or even a seizure in more severe episodes. And, of course, you can still have the muscle cramps and just generalized weakness and even loss of consciousness sometimes with the heat stroke."
For those who are working or playing outside, there are some cautionary terms to help combat heat related illnesses.
"I think with a lot of illnesses, prevention is really the key and the smartest way to actually approach it," he said. "When it comes to heat-related illnesses, generally loose-fitting, lightweight clothes are better than tight-fitting, heavier clothing. Light colored clothing also helps to reflect some of that heat."
Hesington advised to keep yourself hydrated throughout the course of any time when you are outside in hot weather.
"Drinking plenty of water or electrolyte-containing fluids such as Gatorade and such is also a very good idea," Hesington said. "Try to avoid the hottest part of the day (which during this part of the summer is from noon to 4 p.m.). And something people don't often think about is getting acclimated to warmer weather, your body can actually acclimate somewhat to that. So as the season starts to warm up, spending little bits of time outside and increasing that throughout the course of the summer will help your body get use to that."
Page 2 of 2 - Also, staying in good physical shape is something that sometimes helps, Hesington noted.
"If you have particular risk factors, just pay attention to those," he said. "The elderly are at a higher risk, the young are at a higher risk. Drinking alcohol will typically worsen any of these heat-related illnesses and is not a good way to stay hydrated. Also, some medications can increase your risk of heat stroke such as diuretics or water-type pills, some blood pressure medications, some anti-depressants and some of the ADHD medications can also increase your risk of heat stroke as well."
Other ways to combat heat-related illnesses
"With the lower levels of heat related illness, the first thing that you want to do is remove yourself from the hotter temperatures," Hesington said. "Because it really is primarily the heat that is the problem. So, generally resting and going into a cool shaded area or available air-conditioned area is actually a good idea, increasing the fluids at that point is also a good idea. When you get into the heat exhaustion area – where the symptoms are a little bit more severe, then a cold shower or bath is also a good idea. When you reach the level of a stroke, however, really the only right thing to do when you reach that level of illness is to call 9-1-1 or seek immediate medical attention. Because, it is a life threatening illness at that point."
Hesington said to also make sure that your pets are hydrated.