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Heat Safety: Overheating Causes and Precautions

Heat Safety: Overheating Causes and Precautions
Heat Safety: Overheating Causes and Precautions

Fun in the sun is always a good time. Until it’s not. If not careful, overexposure to high temperatures can be extremely dangerous and lead to heat stroke and overheating. Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat injury and it occurs when the body loses the ability to cool itself. Normally, the human body uses a process called thermoregulation to maintain a stable and healthy body temperature. This includes sweating, the evaporation of sweat, and the radiation of excess heat energy from the body. Heat stroke can occur when these healthy processes are interrupted and the core body temperature remains at 104º Fahrenheit or above.

There are a variety of symptoms that could mean you or someone you know is suffering from heat stroke. The most obvious is an elevated body temperature, but there are other signs such as confusion, nausea and flushed skin. Headaches and an increased heart rate also indicators of heat stroke. Heat stroke requires medical attention to stop possible harmful effects on the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. It is a very serious condition that if left untreated can do some serious damage and even result in death. 

There are two types of heat stroke. Classic heat stroke occurs most commonly in elderly people or those with chronic illness. This is also known non-exertional heat stroke and most often happens as a result of high weather temperatures and insufficient ventilation. The other form of heat stroke occurs as a result of strenuous outdoor activity in hot weather. Exertional heat stroke can occur in otherwise healthy individuals due to a variety of factors like clothing and whether or not someone is accustomed to high temperatures.

Regardless of the causes of heat stroke, you can easily prevent the harmful effects of overheating with just a few precautions.

Stay hydrated.

When it’s hot, your body sweats to cool you off. It’s important that you drink lots of water to replenish the lost fluids from sweating. This will help you maintain a normal body temperature.

Wear the right clothes.

Tight, heavy, or excess clothing can lead to heat stroke by preventing sweat from evaporating easily to cool you down. Wear loose, lightweight clothes when planning outdoor activities. Consider a cooling towel like MISSION’s HydroActive Max to keep you cool throughout a hot day.

Avoid alcohol.

Alcohol can affect the ability to regulate body temperature. And it can lead to dehydration, both of which should be avoided in order to prevent the occurence of heat stroke.

Protect yourself from the sun.

Slather on the sunscreen and grab a big hat. By minimizing your skin’s exposure to sunlight, you’re also reducing the chances of a sunburn, which in turn helps ensure that your body can continue to cool itself naturally. Reapply sunscreen often, especially if you’re swimming or sweating.

Minimize your heat exposure.

Planning to spend extra time outdoors? Take regular breaks if possible. Another good idea is to schedule your outdoor exercise or physical labor for early morning or evening, so as to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Be careful with medications.

Some medications may increase the risk of heat stroke. Make sure to familiarize yourself with any potential side effects and take extra precautions with any medications that can affect your body’s ability to dissipate heat or maintain hydration.

Get acclimated.

If you’re not conditioned to high temperatures, take time to get yourself acclimated. People who are not accustomed to heat are more likely to suffer from heat stroke and heat-related illness. Know your limits and take the time needed to adjust to your surroundings.

With these tips and just a little bit of preparation, heat stroke–and a visit to the emergency room–can be easily avoided.