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Heat cramps are muscle contractions, usually in the hamstring muscles (the muscles at the back of the calves). These contraction are forceful and painful.
Over exertion in sports, hiking, pushing a mower and other such activities, dehydration and poor conditioning are usually the cause of heat cramps.
They usually improve with rest, following
the 3 Rules of Summer, and a cool environment.
Although partly due to exhaustion -- and feeling like exhaustion, as the name implies -- heat exhaustion is also a result of excessive heat and dehydration.
The signs of heat exhaustion include:
More severely exhausted patients may need
IV fluids, especially if vomiting keeps them from drinking
enough in which case, this person needs immediate medical
Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness. It can occur even in people who are not exercising, if the weather is hot enough. These people have warm, flushed skin, and do not sweat. Athletes who have heat stroke after vigorous exercise in hot weather, though, may still be sweating considerably.
Whether exercise-related or not, though, a person with heat stroke usually has a very high temperature (106 degrees F or higher), and may be delirious, unconscious, or having seizures.
If anyone you are with has these symptoms, stop right here and call your doctor or EMS. Heat stroke is a medical emergency!
Slow reaction to applying first aid in these cases will lead to the persons death very quickly.
These patients need to have their temperature reduced quickly, often with ice packs, or cool water baths and must also be given IV fluids for re-hydration.
They must be taken to the hospital as quickly as possible and
may have to stay in the hospital for observation since many
different body organs can fail in heat stroke.
It is possible to prevent heat-related illnesses. The important thing is to stay well-hydrated, to make sure that your body can get rid of extra heat, and to be sensible about exertion in hot, humid weather.
Your sweat is your body's main system for getting rid of extra heat. When you sweat, and the water evaporates from your skin, the heat that evaporates the sweat comes mainly from your skin. As long as blood is flowing properly to your skin, extra heat from the core of your body is "pumped" to the skin and removed by sweat evaporation. If you do not sweat enough, you cannot get rid of extra heat well, and you also can't get rid of heat as well if blood is not flowing to the skin.
Dehydration will make it harder for you to cool of in two ways: if you are dehydrated you won't sweat as much, and your body will try to keep blood away from the skin to keep your blood pressure at the right level in the core of your body. But, since you lose water when you sweat, you must make up that water to keep from becoming dehydrated. If the air is humid, it's harder for your sweat to evaporate -- this means that your body cannot get rid of extra heat as well when it's muggy as it can when it's relatively dry.
The best fluid to drink when you are sweating is water. Although there is a little salt in your sweat, you don't really lose that much salt with your sweat, except in special circumstances; taking salt tablets is not recommended. "Sport drinks" such as Gatorade® are fine, too, but water is still the best medicine.
It's also important to be sensible about how much
you exert yourself in hot weather. The hotter and more
humid it is, the harder it will be for you to get rid of
excess heat. The clothing you wear makes a difference,
too: the less clothing you have on, and the lighter that
clothing is, the easier you can cool off.
Above is a heat index (or apparent temperature) chart showing various combinations of air temperature versus relative humidity.
To use the chart, locate the air temperature along the left column and the relative humidity along the top. The cell where the two intersect is the heat index.
For example, an air temperature of 90 degrees fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 60 percent intersect at a heat index of 100 degrees. In other words, the temperature would feel like 100 degrees with this humidity/temperature combination.
Heat index values were devised for shady light wind conditions. Exposure to full sunlight can increase values by up to 15 degrees farenheit.
First aid treatment suggestions for heat-related illnesses can be obtained from local red cross offices, hospitals, clinics, public health agencies and physicians.
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