Even though we tend to associate heat-related health complications with summer, we should all be aware of the effects of high body temperatures no matter what the season. Unexpected heat waves, overexertion during exercise, being trapped in a car on a warm day, and even broken thermostats in the home can happen at any time and lead to problems. However, most cases of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other such dangers do tend to occur during the warmest time of year. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of these health complications to keep them from becoming a serious health hazard.

Overheated guy drinking water from bottle in park

What Can Happen

Heat Exhaustion

When the temperatures start to rise, be on alert for changes in those who exert themselves outside. They may suffer from heat exhaustion, which would include the following symptoms: dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headache, cramping, weak pulse, and heavy sweating. Those exhibiting such symptoms should rest in a cool place and hydrate. A doctor should be consulted if symptoms persist.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is more severe than heat exhaustion and can cause damage to a person’s brain, heart, or kidneys if not treated quickly. Look for these symptoms: fever, vomiting, flushed skin, dry or moist skin (not sweating), and altered mental state. Get help immediately.

Impact on Existing Conditions

Sometimes, exposure to excessive heat can impair the body’s ability to function properly. Your body needs to concentrate its effort on cooling itself, diverting attention away from some other daily functions. People already struggling physically on a daily basis may encounter complications. Those most vulnerable to the heat include: the elderly, pregnant women, young children, and those with heart conditions. High heat can reduce some medications’ full efficacy, and medical devices could also malfunction if exposed to the heat for too long.

How to Help

Listen

Make sure you sign up for any local alert systems in the area you will be, whether home or away. Keep your notifications turned on. That way, in the event of impending danger, you’ll have time to plan. High heat can be the source of power outages, and power loss could affect your plans for staying cool or hydrated.

Prepare

If you intend to be outdoors or in a hot environment for an extended period of time, make sure you have emergency resources close at hand, especially if you’re not at home. Knowing exactly who to call in an emergency and what first steps should be taken to help the victim can add precious time for rescuers and increase chance of recovery. Always try to do whatever possible to stay out of direct sunlight, eat and drink (non-dehydrating beverages) often, wear light clothing, and find cool, open places to rest as often as needed.

Summer is the time to be out in the sun having fun and breathing fresh air. As long as it’s done safely, you can have memories to treasure forever. Take precautions and enjoy!