Heat Exposure Definition
- Symptoms that follow exposure to high environmental temperatures or vigorous physical activity during hot weather.
- Symptoms during heat waves
- Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are covered
- Prevention of heat exposure symptoms also discussed
- There are 3 main reactions to hot environmental temperatures and heat waves:
- Heatstroke or Sunstroke: Symptoms include hot, flushed skin; high fever over 105° F (40.5° C) rectally; the absence of sweating (in 50%); confusion or coma; and shock. A rectal temperature is more accurate than an oral temperature in these disorders. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency with a high death rate if not treated promptly.
- Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms include pale skin; usually no fever but can temporarily be elevated between 100 - 102° F (37.8 - 39° C); profuse sweating; nausea, dizziness, fainting, or weakness. Most of the symptoms are caused by dehydration from sweating. Because a person can progress from heat exhaustion to heat stroke, all patients with severe symptoms (e.g., fainting) need to be examined immediately. Patients with mild symptoms (e.g., dizziness or fever) who do not respond to fluid replacement and rest also need to be seen.
- Heat Cramps: Severe muscle cramps in the legs (especially calf or thigh muscles) and abdomen are present. No fever. Tightness or spasms of the hands may occur.
- All 3 reactions are caused by exposure to high temperatures often with high humidity.
- Exercising or other vigorous activity/labor during hot weather can cause heat production to exceed heat loss.
- Poor hydration interferes with sweating and increases the risk of heat reactions.
- Infants are at added risk because they are less able to sweat with heat stress.
- So are children who are vacationing in a hot climate and who have not acclimatized. The first heat wave of the summer can cause similar problems. It takes 8 to 10 days for you to become used to high summer temperatures.
- Heat stroke (a breakdown in the temperature-regulating mechanism) usually follows exposure to a very high environmental temperature (e.g. trapped inside a hot car, steam tents, crib near a radiator or indoors during bad heat waves without air-conditioning).
- Age less than 3 months and fever, see FEVER
- Fever and NO prolonged exposure to high environmental temperatures, see FEVER
- Call EMS (911) immediately.
- Cool the child off as rapidly as possible while awaiting EMS arrival.
- Move him to a cool shady place or air-conditioned room.
- Sponge the entire body surface with cool water (as cool as tolerated without causing shivering).
- Fan the child to increase evaporation.
- Keep the feet elevated to counteract shock.
- If the child is awake, give as much cold water to drink as he or she can tolerate.
- Fever medicines are of no value for heat stroke.
- Put the child in a cool place. Have him lie down with the feet elevated.
- Undress him (except for underwear) so the body surface can give off heat.
- Sponge the entire body surface continuously with cool water (as cool as tolerated without causing shivering). Fan the child to increase heat loss from evaporation.
- Give as much cold water to drink as the child can tolerate until he or she feels better.
- For severe symptoms, drive the child in to be seen.