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Recognizing a Heat Related Medical Emergency

It is important to remember that during hot summer days to check on the elderly, your neighbor and even kids that may be playing in their rooms not getting cool air circulation.  In our article here we are going to cover what a heat emergency is, and how to treat it.  Remember to call 911 once you get to a point with heat exhaustion and heat strokes. Grays Harbor Fire District 5 has responders standing by during these hot summer days to assist our community.  Do not be afraid to call 911 for assistance.

What are Heat-Related Emergencies?

Heat-related emergencies occur when a person's body is unable to cool itself through sweating and heat loss into the air. It is most common when a person becomes dehydrated, and there is high temperature with high humidity and no breeze. The people most at risk are those who work or exercise outdoors in the heat, such as athletes, laborers, and soldiers, or those who have poor tolerance to heat, such as the elderly, the very young, alcoholics, or people who are obese or have medical problems.

It's key to recognize a heat-related emergency and treat it before it becomes life-threatening. There are 3 types of heat-related emergencies, each heat-related condition is progressively more serious.

  1. Heat Cramps: Painful muscle cramps in the abdomen, arms and legs, usually during strenuous activity; heavy sweating.
    • Treatment of Heat Cramps:
      • Stop activity and move to a cool location
      • Drink sports drink or juice, or water if the others are not available.
      • Gently stretch and massage muscles.
  2. Heat Exhaustion: Sweating; thirst; pale, cool skin; weakness; headache; dizziness; nausea; vomiting; muscle cramps. Develops when you ignore early signs of heat-related emergency or illness. Condition can worsen quickly
    • Treatment of Heat Exhaustion:
      • Stop activity and lie down in a cool location
      • Remove clothing.
      • Cool the person (cool water bath, spray, fan)
      • Drink sports drink or juice, or water if the others are not available.
  3. Heat Stroke: The body can no longer control its temperature; the body temperature rises rapidly. This is a life-threatening emergency.
    • Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke:
      • High body temperature.
      • Dry or moist, flushed skin.
      • Confusion, dizziness.
      • Slurred speech.
      • Seizures. Severe headache. Fast breathing and pulse.
      • Unresponsiveness.
    • Treatment of Heat Stroke:
      • Call 9-1-1 (activate EMS).
      • Quickly cool the victim by immersing in water up to neck; spraying, sponging or showering with cool water; placing ice packs against the groin, armpits and sides of the neck.

Prevent Heat-Related Emergencies by Planning Ahead

It's easy to overlook what you'll need for a day trip, but planning ahead can prevent you from becoming a statistic: around 1,500 people die in the U.S. from heat-related emergencies each year. When it's hot and humid out and you know you'll be outdoors, do yourself and your loved ones a favor by planning ahead. This can be as simple as packing water or sports drinks, a hat, and an umbrella.