Living in Florida means being able to do outdoor activities year-round. Going to the beach, going out for a run, or working outside become run-of-the-mill activities. However, while you may enjoy some of them (or have to do them because of work), it’s also true that sometimes, the heat and humidity can become oppressive. This is especially so during the summer months, when even walking from your front door to the car can feel like a hassle.
How can you learn to recognize regular discomfort vs. heat exhaustion or heat stroke? Becoming familiarized with symptoms can help you stay healthy, and it can even save your life.
What is Heat Exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is when your pulse quickens and you sweat profusely as a result of your body overheating. While it could happen anywhere with high temperatures, it’s more likely to occur in places where there is also high humidity.
Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include the following:
- Muscle cramps
- Sweating profusely
- Rapid pulse
If you experience any of these symptoms while outside, stop all physical activity, drink cool water or sports drinks, take electrolytes or salt tablets, and move either to the shade or to an air-conditioned area.
Heat Exhaustion Risk Factors
Being anywhere that’s hot and humid places you at risk of heat exhaustion. Doing strenuous physical activity while exposed to such weather conditions significantly increases the likelihood of experiencing this, and it can be life-threatening. In addition, some adults are more prone to experiencing heat exhaustion. These include:
- The elderly
- Obese adults
- Adults who are experiencing sudden temperature changes
- Adults left in a parked car without air conditioning
Heat Exhaustion Complications
Left untreated, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke.
What is Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke occurs when your body temperature reaches 104 F (40C). If not treated immediately, it could lead to permanent brain damage, as well as damage to vital organs, such as the heart and kidneys. It can also lead to death.
Heat Stroke Symptoms
Symptoms of heat stroke include all of the following:
- Racing heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Flushed skin
- Slurred speech
- Possible seizures
If you or a loved one is experiencing heat stroke, call 911. You should also remove excess clothing, move the person to the shade and cool them down with whatever means are available: a water bottle, water from a hose, or wet clothing.
Heat Stroke Risk Factors
Some of the biggest risk factors for heat stroke include:
- Physical exertion when it’s too hot outside
- Being over 65 years of age
- Being obese
- Having a previous history of heat stroke
- Certain medications
- Adults who aren’t used to hot weather exerting themselves physically in hot climates
Heat Stroke Complications
Failing to get immediate medical attention could result in your body’s vital organs swelling, and in some cases, death.
Heat Stroke Prevention
To help prevent heatstroke, you must prevent heat exhaustion. You can do so by following these tips:
- If you must exercise outside, do so early in the morning or in the evenings.
- Always stay hydrated. When running, bring a hydration pack with you.
- Never stay inside a parked car nor leave anyone waiting in a parked car without air conditioning.
- If you’re working out for longer than an hour, bring electrolytes.
- If you’re starting to exercise in hot weather, do so gradually. This will allow your body to get used to it.
- Wear lightweight clothing.
- Apply sunscreen of at least 30 SPF.
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