Heat Illness

— Written By and last updated by Nancie Mandeville
en Español

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With another heat wave underway, you should think about how you handle the heat. Heat-related illnesses should not be taken lightly. They can range from fatigue and cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke and can increase the risk of complications from other illnesses such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, emphysema or asthma. Symptoms to watch for are:

  • Cramps due to excessive sweating typically develop in the thigh muscles indicating a deficiency of electrolytes. Taking in electrolytes through fruit or sports drinks can help alleviate this.
  • Heat exhaustion symptoms include nausea, chills, dizziness, and dehydration. Once you notice these symptoms, stop what you’re doing and cool off. Apply wet towels to help your body cool.
  • Heat stroke is much more serious. Symptoms include a lack of sweat, headache, rapid pulse, altered mental state, confusion, lethargy, seizures, and even unconsciousness and a body temperature over 101 F.

By mid-July most of those who work outside have adjusted to the heat. The body is efficient at maintaining a normal body temperature through evaporation of sweat. On really hot days, with maximum exertion, a person can sweat up to two quarts an hour. While you can’t control the heat and humidity, you can control your activity level. Be aware or your own limitations. When you begin to notice the first signs of heat illness, reduce or stop activity, get in the shade, remove excess clothing, apply cool cloths to help lower body temperature, drink fluids, and take it easy

Drinking plain, old-fashioned water works well to replace fluids if you’ve been outside for several hours. But if you’ve been sweating profusely for more than a few hours, you’ll need to replace electrolytes, too. Eat a banana, drink fruit juices, or drink a sports drink that provides electrolytes.

Summer is only half over. There are still plenty of hot, humid days ahead. Being aware of the symptoms and risks of heat related illness can help keep everyone safer.

Join the Union County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers on Saturday, July 29, 9 a.m. – Noon for the Ask a Master Gardener program at their Teaching Garden at the Union County Agriculture Center. Bring your plant, insect or disease problems for identification and management recommendations. Take a stroll through the Teaching Garden and see what’s in bloom and the variety of pollinators that are visiting. The Master Gardener Volunteers will also be having a Yard Sale of garden related items that they no longer want or need. This should be a unique sale, so stop by and check it out.