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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Do you know the warning sings of: heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps

Now that summer is officially here and at times it really feels like summer, there are warning signs to help prevent heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps not just when you are riding your motorcycle but any time you spend a prolonged amount of time outside in the sun and heat. The following information is from the Mayo Clinic:

Heatstroke is the most severe of the heat-related problems, often resulting from exercise or heavy work in hot environments combined with inadequate fluid intake.

Young children, older adults, people who are obese and people born with an impaired ability to sweat are at high risk of heatstroke. Other risk factors include dehydration, alcohol use, cardiovascular disease and certain medications.

What makes heatstroke severe and potentially life-threatening is that the body's normal mechanisms for dealing with heat stress, such as sweating and temperature control, are inadequate. The main sign of heatstroke is a markedly elevated body temperature — generally greater than 104 F (40 C) — with changes in mental status ranging from personality changes to confusion and coma. Skin may be hot and dry — although if heatstroke is caused by exertion, the skin may be moist.

Other signs and symptoms may include:

Rapid heartbeat

Rapid and shallow breathing

Elevated or lowered blood pressure

Cessation of sweating

Irritability, confusion or unconsciousness

Feeling dizzy or lightheaded



Fainting, which may be the first sign in older adults

If you suspect heatstroke:

Move the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned space.

Call 911 or emergency medical help.

Cool the person by covering him or her with damp sheets or by spraying with cool water. Direct air onto the person with a fan or newspaper.

Have the person drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine, if he or she is able.

Heat exhaustion is one of the heat-related syndromes, which range in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion to potentially life-threatening heatstroke.

Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion often begin suddenly, sometimes after excessive exercise, heavy perspiration, and inadequate fluid or salt intake. Signs and symptoms resemble those of shock and may include:

Feeling faint or dizzy


Heavy sweating

Rapid, weak heartbeat

Low blood pressure

Cool, moist, pale skin

Low-grade fever

Heat cramps



Dark-colored urine

If you suspect heat exhaustion:

Get the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned location.

Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly.

Loosen or remove the person's clothing.

Have the person drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine.

Cool the person by spraying or sponging him or her with cool water and fanning.

Monitor the person carefully. Heat exhaustion can quickly become heatstroke.

If fever greater than 102 F (38.9 C), fainting, confusion or seizures occur, call 911 or emergency medical help.

Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur during heavy exercise in hot environments. The spasms may be more intense and more prolonged than are typical nighttime leg cramps. Inadequate fluid intake often contributes to heat cramps.

Muscles most often affected include those of your calves, arms, abdominal wall and back, although heat cramps may involve any muscle group involved in exercise.

If you suspect heat cramps:

Muscle cramps, usually in the abdomen & legs

Heavy perspiration

Lightheadedness, weakness, exhaustion

Rest briefly and cool down

Drink clear juice or an electrolyte-containing sports drink

Practice gentle, range-of-motion stretching and gentle massage of the affected muscle group

Don't resume strenuous activity for several hours or longer after heat cramps go away

Call your doctor if your cramps don't go away within one hour or so

Mild to moderate dehydration is likely to cause:

Dry, sticky mouth

Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual


Decreased urine output — fewer than six wet diapers a day for infants and eight hours or more without urination for older children and teens

Few or no tears when crying

Muscle weakness


Dizziness or lightheadedness

Severe dehydration, a medical emergency, can cause:

Extreme thirst

Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults

Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes

Lack of sweating

Little or no urination — any urine that is produced will be dark yellow or amber

Sunken eyes

Shriveled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn't "bounce back" when pinched into a fold

In infants, sunken fontanels — the soft spots on the top of a baby's head

Low blood pressure

Rapid heartbeat


In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness

Unfortunately, thirst isn't always a reliable gauge of the body's need for water, especially in children and older adults. A better barometer is the color of your urine: Clear or light-colored urine means you're well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals dehydration.

When to see a doctor

If you're a healthy adult, you can usually treat mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids. Get immediate medical care if you develop severe signs and symptoms such as extreme thirst, no urination for eight hours, shriveled skin, dizziness and confusion.

Treat children and older adults with greater caution. Call your family doctor right away if your child:

Develops severe diarrhea, with or without vomiting or fever

Has had episodes of vomiting for more than eight hours

Has had moderate diarrhea for three days or more

Can't keep down fluids

Is irritable or disoriented and much sleepier or less active than usual

Has any of the signs or symptoms of mild or moderate dehydration

Go to the nearest hospital emergency room or call 911 or your emergency medical number if you think a child or older adult is severely dehydrated. You can help prevent dehydration from becoming severe by carefully monitoring someone who is sick and giving fluids at the first sign of diarrhea, vomiting or fever and by encouraging children to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise.

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