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Heat-Related Illnesses and How to Treat Them

Texas in the summertime is no joke; in fact, research shows that areas of Texas have the hottest and most uncomfortable summer climate in the entire US. With heat index values regularly hitting triple-digit marks, the summer sun can quickly turn from inconvenient or annoying to dangerous.

Staying inside all summer isn’t an option, no matter how appealing air conditioning and reruns of “The Office” may be. If you’re planning to be outside, for water fun, sports, hiking or any number of other activities, we’ve compiled a list of heat-related illnesses, the signs you should watch for, and when to visit Prime Urgent Care for treatment.

Types of Heat-Related Illnesses

For some people, heat-related illnesses can come on slowly as they spend long hours in the elements. For others, their heat-related issues may have an acute onset, where they are quickly overwhelmed by high temperatures and excessive sun.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke can be a life-threatening emergency. It occurs when your body becomes overheated and is unable to regulate its temperature.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

Heat stroke symptoms include hot, dry skin; high body temperatures (over 103°F); dry skin; rapid pulse; and a throbbing headache. People affected by heat stroke may also experience confusion and disorientation.

How to Treat Heat Stroke

Because heat stroke can be life-threatening, it’s important to seek immediate emergency attention by calling 911. As you wait for the emergency professionals, you can place ice packs and/or wet towels on the person’s body (focus on areas that sweat or retain heat, like the under arm and groin regions).

Dehydration

Your body can become dehydrated if you don’t drink or consume enough fluids to replace what your body eliminates.

Dehydration can happen at any time, even without excessive heat, if you don’t remember to drink water and stay hydrated. However, it’s most common in the summer because the heat causes extra sweating, which can drain your body of additional hydration.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Dehydration can be extremely unpleasant and can manifest through symptoms including cramps, lack of urine or dark-colored urine, confusion and fatigue. Children can become dehydrated very easily, and may seem listless/irritable and lack tears when crying.

How to Treat Dehydration

The best way to treat dehydration is to get fluids into the dehydrated person. Water is the most hydrating beverage, but sports drinks or Pedialyte can also be good choices. Be sure to drink reasonably, and not overwhelm your body with excessive amount of liquid, which can lead to other problems.

If you don’t feel better following consumption of liquids, or if you have trouble keeping down fluids, visit an urgent care or medical professional immediately. They can assess your situation and determine whether additional, advanced hydration methods might help you get on the road to recovery more quickly.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is similar to dehydration; it occurs because of a loss of water in the body. The difference is that heat exhaustion also includes a loss of salt from the body, which can be extremely unbalancing and dangerous.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

The symptoms of heat exhaustion include shallow, fast breathing; clammy skin; nausea/vomiting and cramps.

How to Treat Heat Exhaustion

Visit an urgent care clinic immediately so medical professionals can assist you in rehydrating. Drinking cool beverages and remaining in cool temperatures as you replenish your body’s water and sodium stores is extremely important.

Heat Rash

Heat rash occurs when sweat cannot reach the surface of the skin because of blocked pores. Humidity, sunscreens or excessive physical labor can make it difficult for the sweat to evaporate and lead to a rash.

Symptoms of Heat Rash

Heat rash can cause a prickly, stinging feeling. The rash typically occurs within skinfold areas, like the neck, armpits and groin. Babies and small children can be especially susceptible to heat rash.

How to Treat Heat Rash

Heat rash typically improves with time spent out of the heat and sun. If your heat rash is prolonged or if it becomes infected, a visit to an urgent care clinic can provide peace of mind and relief.

If your rash doesn’t feel like it requires urgent treatment, cooling and drying your body, and applying baby powder, can be helpful.

Sunburn

Sunburn isn’t technically a heat-related illness, as you can get sunburned year-round if you don’t protect your skin. However, the prevalence of outdoor activities can definitely increase the possibility of suffering from sunburn during the summer months.

Symptoms of Sunburn

Symptoms of sunburn include pink or red skin that can be hot to the touch; blisters; and peeling skin.

How to Treat Sunburn

The best way to treat sunburn is to take preventative measures and not get one in the first place. Apply copious amounts of sunscreen (while making sure to follow the application guidelines); wear clothing and hats that cover your skin; and limit your direct sun exposure.

After a burn, moisturizing creams and cooling cloths can help alleviate the discomfort associated with sunburn. However, if you experience more serious sunburn issues, including a rash, large blisters or a very severe burn, visit an urgent care to determine whether additional measures can be taken to improve your comfort level as you wait for the burn to fade.

Across the spectrum of heat-related issues and illnesses, there are a few commonalities. Keeping hydrated and limiting your exposure to the sun (through appropriate clothing and appropriate amounts of time spent outdoors) can be very helpful in heading off the health concerns associated with heat-related illnesses.

If you still find yourself stricken by the heat, the medical professionals at Prime Urgent Care can help you move more quickly along the road to a full recovery. Visit our  clinic at the first sign of heat-related illness, and let us help you along the way to a faster recovery.

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