Family Health

Understanding Heat-Related Illnesses

Heat waves are an unfortunate but frequent reality in Central Texas.  U.S. Climate Data reports that the average temperature for Austin in June, July, and August is 92oF, 96oF, and 97oF, respectively. Add a heat wave—with temperatures reaching 100+ degrees—to that and your chance for a heat-related illness increases significantly.

While prevention is the best practice for heat-related illness, it is also important to be prepared in first aid steps should you or someone near you be affected by a heat related illness.

The Red Cross has provided a guide to recognizing symptoms of the top three heat-related illnesses—heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke—and the first aid steps to take in the event one of these illnesses occurs:

  • Heat cramps: Move the person to a cooler place and lightly stretch and massage the affected muscle. Administer an electrolyte-containing fluid, such as sports drinks, fruit juice, or milk.
    • Tip: Heat cramps, which often occur in the legs, are the first warning sign your body gives that it is having trouble with the heat and that you should move indoors.
  • Heat exhaustion: Signs include cool, moist, pale, ashen, or flushed skin; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion. Should heat exhaustion occur, move the person to a cool environment with circulating air, while loosening and removing any excess clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths to the skin. If the person is conscious, give them electrolytes and fluids.
    • Tip: If the person’s condition does not improve, if they refuse water, if they become unconscious or begin vomiting, call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • Heat stroke: Heat stroke can be fatal, so it is extremely important to recognize signs of heat stroke, which include high body temperature, red skin that can be dry or moist, changes in consciousness, rapid and weak pulse, rapid and shallow breathing, confusion, vomiting, and seizures. You must call 9-1-1 immediately, as heat stroke is life-threatening
    • Tip: While waiting for first responders, immerse or spray the person with cold water. If neither option is available, sponge the person with ice water doused towels over the entire body, or cover the person with bags of ice.

For more information on heat-related illnesses and how to prevent them, visit RedCross.org. To learn more about family health and parenting tips and advice, visit us at Any Baby Can and register for one of our affordable parenting classes, or give us a call at 512.454.3743.

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