Summer is almost everyone's favorite time of year but it's also a peak time for tragedy. The devastating heat can lead to such events.
Most situations are preventable and, with the proper knowledge of how to combat them, can be dealt with properly when the time comes—or even avoided entirely.
According to the National Safety Council's Injury Facts 2016, 372 people died in 2013 from exposure to excessive heat. This is what you need to look out for:
Heat cramps. After physical activity in the beating sunlight, muscles tend to cramp. In many cases, muscle spasms can even occur. If you or someone you know is in a situation like this and starts to feel spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs, the likely diagnosis would be heat cramps.
Make sure the victim ceases all physical activity. Immediately have them sit or lie down and start drinking plenty of fluids (i.e. water or Sqwincher). Begin to have the individual stretch their muscles where the cramping occurred and, if the pain doesn't subside within an hour, seek medical attention.
Heat exhaustion. Like heat cramps, this sets in after physical activity in the heat, but the symptoms are more severe. It may begin with dizziness, clammy or pale skin, and high blood pressure and body temperature. But as it proceeds, flu-like symptoms will start to set in and the victim will feel fatigue and thirst, followed by a headache and nausea. Severe circumstances can include vomiting and diarrhea.
When heat exhaustion has set in on an individual, move the afflicted to shade or somewhere indoors where the temperature is cooler. Keep them hydrated and make sure they are drinking plenty of fluids. After this, urge the person to take a cold shower or apply wet cloths to the back of their neck, armpits and groin area.
When heat exhaustion starts to worsen, especially if it goes untreated, it can turn into heatstroke.
Heatstroke. This will happen when the body is so dehydrated, it can no longer sweat. Body temperature will rise and the brain and vital organs will slow down because they are "effectively cooked". Signs of heatstroke include hot skin, altered mental state and even seizures.
This is a situation that will require an immediate call to emergency services.
There are many ways to help the victim in the meantime:
Escort the person into the shade or cool indoor air and put them in a half-seated position. Do not give them any sort of drink and especially do not administer any medication. Remove any unnecessary clothing and apply ice packs or cold cloths to the back of the neck, armpits and groin area. If possible, immerse the victim in a tub of cold water. Doing these tasks before the emergency services arrive could be the difference between life and death for the affected individual.
Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are all results of spending too much time in the hot sun, generally during physical activity. A lot of the time these can occur due to the lack of proper hydration. The body starts to shut down when it loses too much water and salt, and much of this is lost during sweating.
Always stay hydrated, apply sunscreen, and wear sunglasses and a hat with loose clothing that can keep you cool but protect you from the sun. And, most importantly, be smart.