By Rutherford Regional Health System

Summer months mean watching out for one of Mother Nature’s most dangerous elements: heat.

“Summer is such a fun time of year, but it is also dangerous because people can quickly become overheated,” said Jason Carney, RN, director of the Emergency Department at Rutherford Regional Health System. “We really encourage our patients to know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. If people know what to watch for, they can catch potential problems earlier and start cooling the body down before any serious complications occur.”

Below are important signs and symptoms, and actions to take if you or someone you encounter is experiencing a heat-related illness, and tips to help you beat the heat.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses an excessive amount of water and salt and is unable to cool itself. If left untreated, heat exhaustion could lead to heat stroke, which is why it is important to know the signs and symptoms. They are:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Heavy sweating
  • Elevated body temperatures
  • Decreased urine output

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness, requiring immediate medical attention. Heat stroke occurs when the body has lost excessive water and salt, and has become overwhelmed by the heat. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Confusion, altered mental status or slurred speech;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating;
  • Seizures;
  • Very high body temperatures.

Heat stroke can be fatal if treatment is delayed. If you or someone you encounter is experiencing a heat-induced illness, you should:

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately;
  • Stay with the person until emergency medical services arrive;
  • Move the person to a shaded, cool area and remove any heavy or excess clothing;
  • Cool the person down quickly with cold water or an ice bath, or by placing cold wet cloths or ice on the head, neck, armpits or groin;
  • Circulate the air around the person to speed cooling.

Carney says rigorous outdoor activities should be limited to mornings and afternoons, when the sun isn’t out in full force. He also says knowing the aforementioned signs and symptoms is critical.

In the event you need its services for heat-related illness, Rutherford Regional Health System’s Emergency Department is a short distance away and prepared to compassionately care for you and the people you love. Learn more at