Heat disorders are a spectrum of illnesses that are caused by overexposure to heat. Being able to recognize the symptoms of a heat disorder will help you avoid a disaster. Whether it be something as small as a heat cramp or something as serious as heat stroke, understanding its symptoms, and knowing how to prevent and treat it, can help you save a life.
Heat disorders affect everyone differently, and many will have different levels of tolerance to heat. However, there are various risk factors that can make you more susceptible to a heat disorder. (Related: Beware of the summer bugout: Prepare to stay hydrated or the heat might literally kill you.)
Whether or not you’re at a high risk of a heat disorder, it can still happen, and it’s best to understand what the symptoms are in order to spot them immediately.
The National Weather Service (NWS) usually issues excessive heat warnings within 12 hours of the heat index reaching a critical temperature. Other than the NWS’s warning, the temperature app on your phone can also give you a detailed report on the current weather. If you are in the area of an excessive heat warning, you have to do everything to counteract it immediately or you, your family and even your pets will suffer. The Department of Homeland Security has several tips for preparing for a heat wave:
During the heat wave itself, be sure to stay indoors, preferably in a room with air conditioning. If your house is poorly ventilated, consider driving over to a neighbor’s house, the public library, a shopping mall or a community center to wait out the heat.
For all of these conditions, the best way to counteract them is to drink plenty of fluids. For heat exhaustion and heat cramps, maintaining the amount of sodium in your body is also key, as you lose a lot of it through perspiration. One way of doing this is to take a sodium supplement with your glass of water. If you’re outdoors when the heat disorder happens, move out of the sun and to a colder location immediately. The goal, especially if the patient has heat stroke, is to lower the temperature to at least below 102 degrees quickly, but not so quick that you replace the very high temperature with a very low one. If the patient has heat stroke, continue monitoring the situation and call medical services immediately. Rapidly fan him and wet the body with a damp cloth to help him cool down quicker. You can also place him in a body of water, such as a bath.
Heat disorders, if left untreated, can turn very deadly. However, with the right amount of knowledge and preparation, you can react to any heat disorder quickly enough to avoid further health complications.