Extreme heat can be bad news to anyone. But with the beautiful summer coming our way, it’s hard to sometimes resist that urge to spend time outdoors. However, some people are more at risk when it comes to heat illnesses. Those most at risk include older people, young children and those with chronic health conditions, in particular those with cardiovascular disease. And the scary part is, there are many people who are unaware they’re at risk of cardiovascular disease.
“So people who may not even realise they are walking around with a cardiovascular problem and a day like today is a perfect day for that problem to flare into something that requires them to call an ambulance or can even kill them.”
Pregnant women can also be affected badly by hot weather. “Lots of studies around the world now show higher temperatures are strongly associated with an increased risk for pre-term births,” Dr Barnett said.
And for those taking medications, please be aware of the risks. People more affected by heat are those taking certain medications, such as blood-pressure-lowing medications, antidepressants and some allergy treatments, reports ABC News.
But knowing the signs can really help you prevent a tragedy.
Early signs of heat stress
Heat-related illnesses range from mild conditions such as heat rash or cramps, through to heat stroke, which can be fatal. The effects of heat stress cascade, it’s important to know what the early signs look like.
Early signs of heat stress to look out for include:
- heavy sweating.
“The skin can be cold and clammy. Loss of salt from sweating can produce cramping. Anyone showing these symptoms should be taken to a cool place, rested and given cold drinks [no alcohol],” Dr Barnett said to ABC News.
What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke happens when the core body temperature rises above 40.5C and the body’s internal systems start to shut down.
There can be liver, kidney, muscle and heart damage and very often, the person’s nervous system is affected, resulting in delirium, coma and seizures.
The skin may be dry with no sweating and a person may stagger, appear confused, fit, collapse and become unconscious.
Every minute’s delay in cooling a person with heat stroke increases the likelihood of permanent injury or death.
The following can help you avoid heat-related illness:
Drink water, lots of it: By the time you feel thirsty your body is already dehydrating, so drink keep having fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol.
Dress comfortably: Lose, light-weight clothing helps your body stay cool. Light-coloured clothing reflects heat and sunlight.
Cool off: Take a cool shower or tepid bath if you’re feeling hot and flustered.
Avoid exposure: Stay out of the sun if possible. If not, wear a shirt, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Sunburn will affect your body’s ability to cope with the heat.
Seek air conditioning: If you don’t have air conditioning at home, spend the day somewhere that does, like a library, cinema or shopping centre. If you do have an air conditioner at home, make sure it has been serviced. Fans will also help you stay cool.
Keep your environment cool: Draw curtains, blinds and awnings early in the day to keep the heat out of your home.
If you or those close to you are suffering heat stress, call for help immediately: Symptoms of heat stress include extremely heavy sweating, headache and vomiting, confusion, swollen tongue.
If you think someone may be affected by heat stroke:
- Remove the person from the sun to a shady cool place
- Call 000
- Remove clothing and sponge down with cool water
- Place ice packs over large blood vessels
- Only give fluids to drink if the person is fully conscious
- If they regain consciousness, give small amounts of cool water at short intervals.