July 10, 2014

Take heed about heat illnesses


COLUMBIA, Tenn. – With this summer’s heat index often reaching dangerously high readings, Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC)

wants you to know some tips on how to stay safe from heat illnesses.

During exceptionally hot days, your body temperature can rise to dangerous levels. While the body normally cools itself by sweating, it is often not enough during hot weather, especially when the humidity is very high. Staying outside in the heat too long and overexerting yourself can lead to heat illnesses. Anyone in poor physical condition, older adults and both adults and children who are overweight or sick are particularly susceptible to heat illnesses. Limiting time in the heat, drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and replenishing salt and minerals can help reduce the risk of heat illnesses.

Heat illnesses include:

  • Heat stroke – a life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 104 degrees in just minutes; symptoms include dry skin, a rapid, strong pulse and dizziness
  • Heat exhaustion – an illness that can precede heat stroke; symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse
  • Heat cramps – muscle pains and spasms that happen during heavy exercise
  • Heat rash – skin irritation from excessive sweating

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Severe headache
  • Weakness, dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure
  • No sweating
  • Flushed, hot dry skin
  • Temperature of 104 degrees or higher 

If any of these symptoms appear call for emergency help immediately. While waiting for help, move the victim indoors or to a shaded location and douse with cool water. Do not give children fluids to drink unless he or she is awake, alert and acting normally.

Steps to prevent heat illness include drinking plenty of liquids before and during any activity in hot sunny weather (whether you are thirsty or not), wearing light-colored loose clothing and using sunscreen when outdoors. Also, as much as possible, limit heavy activity to before noon and after 6 p.m. during hot and humid days and go indoors or in the shade to rest and hydrate whenever feeling overheated.

“Heat related illnesses can happen suddenly and without much warning. Please be safe and put into practice prevention tips on hot summer days,” said Jessica Kincaid, RN, nurse manager of the MRMC Emergency Department.

For more information about heat illnesses, visit