According to a report by the United States Natural Hazard Statistics, where data was taken from NWS forecast offices in 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Island, demonstrates that there was a total of 155 heat related fatalities throughout 2012.
This number is more than injuries caused by tornados, floods, rip currents, wind, and cold each.
This heat affects everyone outdoors, especially those performing physical actions such as construction workers, athletes, summer campers, and children left in the car. In fact, the Department of Geosciences and the San Francisco State University discovered 33 total deaths of children left in cars throughout 2012.
Symptoms of Heat Illness
Recognizing the symptoms during the onset of a heatstroke may help to avoid having a heatstroke all together. These symptoms will typically be noticeable and should be attended to immediately. Some of the symptoms of heatstroke include (but are not limited to):
- Dry Skin
- Flushed Skin
- Heat Cramps
- Heat Rash
- High Body Temperature
- Muscle Cramps
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Rapid and Weak Pulse
- Rapid Breathing
- Respiratory Problems
Heat Illness Classifications
A heatstroke can present itself anytime excessive temperatures are present. This may also appear with little to no warning and cause permanent injuries and possible death. Some heatstroke classifications include:
Heat cramps are painful involuntary muscle spasms which typically occur during heavy exercise in hot environments. These spasms may be prolonged and intense and are due to the inadequate intake of fluids.
Heat edema is caused by the blood vessels expanding so the fluid moves into the hands or legs by gravity. This also poses a risk of unbalanced salt levels in the body which also draw increased fluids to the hands and legs.
Heat exhaustion occurs after being exposed to excessive temperatures for several days and has become dehydrated. The two types of head exhaustion include water depletion and salt depletion.
Heat rash develops in the sweat ducts and blocks the perspiration under the skin. This will typically result in blisters and red lumps and may be itchy and cause a prickly sensation.
Heat stroke is caused by excessive exposure to high temperatures or by performing physical activities in hot weather. The Mayo Clinic states that a person is considered to have a heatstroke when their body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Heat syncope occurs when a person faints as a result of overheating. It occurs under the same conditions as a heat stroke and is associated with body temperatures hitting or surpassing 104 degrees Fahrenheit, with fainting and with or without mental confusion. It is caused by the mild overheating and inadequate water and/or salt.
Heat tetany is related to periods of stress in a hot environment. It is often associated with hyperventilation, numbness, tingling, respiratory problems, and muscle spasms.
These heat illness categories can all be prevented by taking the correct precautions and remaining adequately hydrated.
Heat Illness Prevention Tips
There are several ways an individual can avoid heat illness, which are all available by paying attention to your body and taking the necessary precautions in excessively high temperatures. Some heat illness prevention tipsinclude:
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages
- Consume sports drinks to hydrate and replace lost salt and nutrients
- Hydrate regularly prior to, during, and after physical activity
- Keep an eye on others
- Never leave children in the car unattended
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of heat injuries and illness
- Seek cool shaded areas
- Stay covered from direct sunlight
- Wear a hat and light colored clothing
- Wear breathable and loose clothing