Ask a Nurse: Preventing Summer Heat Injuries

Preventing Summer Heat Injuries

We have all been having some super-hot weather across the US! Have you been keeping cool? When the weather is hot and humid, your body can’t cool itself as effectively, and if your core temperature gets too hot you can have damage to internal organs and even die. The people most at risk for heat related injuries are babies to 4 year olds, elderly, and those with obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug use and alcohol use.  Here are a few tips to keep yourself and your families’ safe during extreme heat:

  • Stay hydrated! In extreme heat, you need to drink more water than you feel a need to. This is especially true if you are exercising or otherwise expending energy. Drink 2 to 4 glasses of water per hour (16 to 32 ounce for adults). These should be non-alcoholic drinks (preferably water as suggested) as alcohol dehydrates.
  • Rest! Preferably indoors, in a cool shaded area, or other cooler area. You need to rest more in extreme heat; your body is working overtime to keep cool.

  • Cool off with a cool shower, sponge bath, swimming pool or garden hose. Bathing your body with cool water is a great way to keep your internal temperature down.

  • Find an indoor place to go with air conditioning. If you do not have a room in the house with an air conditioner that does not mean you are out of luck! You can visit a friend who does, go to a mall or library, or even take a drive if you have air conditioning in your car.
  • Wear lighter, loose clothing. Sundresses, loose cotton tops and shorts will keep you cooler.

What are the signs of heatstroke?

What are the warning signs of a heat stroke?

Warning signs of heat stroke vary but may include the following:

  • An extremely high body temperature (above 103°F)
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

If you or someone you are with has these symptoms, you need to call 911 right away! Heat stroke is a medical emergency! Get the person in a cooler area and cool them rapidly with ice, cool water, etc.

What are the signs of heat exhaustion?

The warning signs of heat exhaustion include the following:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

Heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke; take measures to cool off quickly if these symptoms occur.

In heat stroke the skin is usually hot and dry; in heat exhaustion the skin is typically cool and moist.

Don’t risk getting seriously ill, it is worth the time it takes to plan ahead for extreme heat!

Stay Cool,

Nurse Pam

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Pamela is an RN, MSN/Ed.

Pamela is a mother of 6 amazing children ages 11 to 24. She is a nurse educator and loves to travel overseas to work in medical clinics and teach health-related topics to schools and communities. She has been married to her best friend, Steve, for 29 years. She has many different interests including reading, writing (NOT arithmetic!), baking, teaching, and spending time with her family. She lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband and two youngest daughters.

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