Common heat related illnesses

The heat in high ambient temperatures has direct effects on the body. And we will describe them below.

  1. Heat stroke: Also known as sunstroke is a severe and life threatening heat related illness leading to body temperatures greater than 40 °C. It can be due to high ambient temperature or physical exertion that builds up heat within the body. But more importantly, the condition is characterized by the overwhelming of the body’s thermoregulatory mechanisms that cause heat retention in the body. And also, high external heat from the environment and insufficient heat loss all lead to abnormally high body temperature. The symptoms of heat stroke include redskin, headache, dizziness and confusion. Some of its medical complications include seizures, rhabdomyolysis or kidney failure.

Treatments typically involve supportive care, physical cooling by spraying water, using a fan, putting someone on ice or giving intravenous fluids. More care should be taken in groups that are at the highest risk, for whom small changes in ambient temperatures can have grave effects, these people include pediatric populations.

  1. Heat cramps: A form of heat illness that involves muscle spasms resulting from loss of large amounts of salt and water, usually through exercise. Heat cramps can occur during exercise but are more common during rest and can also be felt several hours after exercise. They are usually painful, involuntary contractions of skeletal muscles and are signaled by cramping in the abdomen, arms and calf. They may present with more painful effects when an individual doesn’t consume adequate fluids or electrolytes. They are painful but for the most part self-limiting, but can be a sign of serious conditions to come such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Heat cramps can be relieved by ingestion of potassium rich components such as sports drinks or foods such as bananas and apples, also allowing time for recovery after strenuous activity. Severe conditions can be corrected by IV normal saline.

  1. Heat exhaustion: It is often caused by a continuous loss of water and electrolytes through sweating. Heat exhaustion tends to leads to heat stroke and is characterized by general muscle weakness, sudden excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting and possible fainting but only becomes heat stroke when the body reaches 40°C
  2. Heat rash: Also known as Miliria or sweat rash. These are small and itchy rashes that are caused by sweat trapped under the skin by clogged sweat ducts that can be clogged due to dead skin cells or bacteria and cause irritation, itching and a rash of very small blisters on a localized skin area. It is most common in infants due to under-developed sweat glands. Symptoms usually include small red rashes. The resulting inflammation often leads to folliculitis. Treatment involves avoiding areas that induce sweating.

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