Homo-static involves regulating the body’s normal temperature through evaporation of sweat. In highly humid conditions such as air temperature above 95 F, the sweat does not evaporate as quickly since the cooling mechanism becomes less effective. Dehydration occurs due to less fluid intake, excessive fluid losses and electrolyte imbalances at higher levels of relative humidity. This high body temperature can potentially cause brain damage and damage to the body’s internal organs. Heat-related illnesses may occur as a result of heat exposure, including heat rashes, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, heat cramps and heat syncope and are classified into:
- Hyperthermia is defined as a state of overheating of the body.
- Heat cramps are the muscle cramps felt in low salt conditions in the body during or after strenuous exercises.
- Heat exhaustion is the response to the stimulus of an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat during physical activity in a hot environment.
- Heat rash is a skin irritation experienced in high temperature, humid weather. Heat Rash is attributed to incidents of excessive sweating, causing the blockage of sweat ducts found in the skin.
- Heatstroke occurs on the fading ability of the body to regulate a higher internal body temperature of 104 F based on the duration of exposure to excessive heat and peak heat attained.
- Heat syncope is a fainting or falling unconsciousness in the heat, during prolonged standing or exercise, or sudden change in posture to a standing position from as rest or sitting body posture.
Signs and Symptoms of heat-related illness include:
- Heat cramps: Excessive sweating, involuntary spasms of the muscles specifically in the leg region.
- Heat exhaustion: Profuse sweating, headache, muscle cramps, weakness, nausea and vomiting.
- Heat rash: Itchy or prickly skin sensation accompanied by the formation of red bumps on the skin.
- Heatstroke: weakness, headache, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, muscle cramps, aches, nausea, vomiting and coma.
- Heat syncope: dehydration or dryness resulting from the removal of water, dizziness or lightheadedness and fainting caused due to prolonged exposure to heat, or orthostatic hypotension.
Heat syncope: dehydration or dryness resulting from the removal of water, dizziness or lightheadedness and fainting caused due to prolonged exposure to heat, or orthostatic hypotension.
High risk population prone to heat disease includes children up to four years of age, elderly people above the age of 65, obese people or overweight people, chronic illness patients, and people with mental illness.
The primary treatment for heat-related illness involves preventing heat exposure, a rapid reduction of the core body temperature to about 39°C, moving the individual out of a hot environment and ensuring rest and rehydration for the patient. Removal of restrictive body clothing and spraying water on the body, covering the patient with ice water-soaked sheets, or placing ice packs in the axillae and groin reduces the body temperatures rapidly. Due to high thermal conductivity, ice water reduces core body temperature to less than 39°C in approximately 20-40 minutes.
The external cooling of body temperature is halted at reaching the temperature of 39°C to prevent overshooting and iatrogenic hypothermia. Benzodiazepines can be prescribed by your doctor to ensure rest and proper sleep, control convulsions (irregular violent movement of the body, caused by involuntary contraction of muscles) and shivering of the body parts. The hypotension symptoms are treated next with cooling and intravenous crystalloid fluids.
Recommendations on the administration of intravenous fluids for circulatory support differ among patient populations and depend on the presence of preexisting medical conditions, and preexisting cardiovascular disease. Aggressive fluid resuscitation generally is not recommended because it may lead to pulmonary edema (fluid accumulates in the lungs)
Recommendations in case of Heat Disease: A Cardiopulmonary bypass has been suggested for use in the most severe cases. However, this requires highly trained personnel and sophisticated equipment. Hospitalization of individuals with heat stroke for 48 hours may be required to monitor the complications. The temperature should be continuously monitored for a few days till fluctuations are nipped down. Increase your fluid intake regardless of your activity level. During heavy exercise in a hot environment, drink 2-4 glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.
Some general guidelines to help protect your adolescents, family from heat-related illnesses include the following:
- Drink plenty of fluids (water, fruit juices and sports drink) during vigorous physical activities, especially on hot days. You should avoid alcohol and fluids with caffeine, such as tea, coffee, and cola.
- Ensure that your adolescent dresses in light-colored, lightweight, tightly-woven, loose-fitting clothing on hot days.
- Schedule all vigorous activities and sports activities for cooler times of the day. Take rest periods in shady or cool areas.
- Ensure that your adolescent is protected from the sun and wears a hat and sunglasses, and uses an umbrella. Use a sunscreen that is at least SPF (sun protection factor) 15.
- Make periodic increments to the time spent outdoors gradually, to get your adolescent’s body used to the heat.
- Teach your child and adolescents to take frequent drink breaks and have 1-2 glasses of water every hour.
- Plan to spend as much time indoors as possible on very hot and humid days.
- Emphasize on the importance of warm-up and cool-down exercising, before and after the exercise routine.
- Discuss the planned activities with your adolescent’s doctor for preventing heat-related illnesses if your adolescent is on medication.