As we move farther into the summer, which is the hottest part of the year, I thought we should talk about heat-related illness. Heat related illnesses could range from minor problems like heat rash, heat cramps, heat edema, heat syncope, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Heat stroke is defined when body temperature is over 105.1 and it is due to environmental heat exposure with lack of thermal regulation. The most common causes of heat stroke in the pediatric population are athletes exercising in hot, humid conditions and when small children are left in cars. The temperature in a car even with the windows partially, rolled down, can reach as high as 120 degrees when the temperature is only 70 degrees outside. The symptoms of heat stroke include dry skin, rapid but strong pulse, dizziness, and confusion.
Heat exhaustion can be a precursor to heat stroke and the symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid, fast breathing, and a weak pulse. Heat syncope is fainting as a result of overheating. Heat cramps are muscle cramps that occur when somebody is exercising heavily in hot weather. Heat rash is a skin irritation from excessive sweating.
Preventions of heat related illnesses can be accomplished by wearing light-colored, loose fitting clothing, wearing wide brimmed hats, avoiding exercising in the hottest parts of the day, using air-conditioning and resting regularly. Knowing the symptoms of heat-related illnesses can lead to prevention of poor outcomes. Treatment of heat stroke mainly involves cooling.
The patient should be moved to a cool area either inside to air conditioning or at least to the shade. The removal of clothing, applying cool compresses, and using fans to promote evaporation will aid in the cooling process.
Hydration is also an important component.
Pushing water or fluid replacement drinks when the patient is conscious, or IV fluid if the patient is unable to cooperate, will achieve this. Patients should be monitored closely and trained professionals who know CPR should be called immediately in the event of heat stroke.