Man pouring water on his face

Know the warning signs of heat-related illnesses

Although Texans joke about the heat, heat-related illnesses are no joke. Dr. Jeff Jarvis, Medical Director for Williamson County EMS and Williamson County Emergency Communications, talks to us about the warning signs of heat-related illnesses and how to avoid them.

Heat cramps occur when our bodies lose salt, usually during or after strenuous activity. When muscles cramp in the thighs and calves, simply move indoors or into a cooler environment and/or eat something with salts and drink fluids. Most people recover easily from heat cramps.

Heat exhaustion happens when we become dehydrated in hot weather. Watch for nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness. Body temperature will remain normal, but you will sweat profusely. Take the same steps as you would for heat cramps; like with heat cramps, most people recover well.

Heat stroke, however, can be fatal. When your body can’t get rid of heat, your internal temperature rises quickly. Once it rises above 107 degrees, organs begin to fail and you can die without fast treatment. Keep an eye out for these key symptoms: high temperature, confusion, and possible unconsciousness.

“If you or someone you see shows any signs of heat stroke . . . call 911 immediately,” Dr. Jarvis says. “Then get them into the shade or, better yet, an air-conditioned area. Pour water on them.”

To prevent heat emergencies:

  • Limit exposure to hot, humid environments
  • Drink plenty of cool fluids
  • If you must be outside for extended periods, look for shade and breeze
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightly colored clothes
  • Watch for warning signs

“And always wear sunscreen,” Dr. Jarvis adds. “It may not help prevent heat illness, but it can prevent painful sunburns and, more importantly, skin cancer.”

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