The Heatwave and Staying Safe

Americans are hot, sweaty and cranky this week as a heat wave sweeps through at least 20 states. But do you really know how the extreme weather affects your health?

Here's the thing: While kids, the elderly and pregnant women (in the third trimester) are often at the highest risk, anyone is susceptible if they ignore the following warning signs.


1. Excessive sweating: When your body is exposed to heat, its natural response is to sweat to help you cool down.  Want to avoid heat-related complications? Replace that "lost water" by rehydrating with water and, depending on how much you're sweating, a beverage with electrolytes. (You know that salty taste on your skin when you sweat? It's because your body is losing sodium and other electrolytes.)


2. Heat cramps: If you stop sweating because of prolonged heat combined with dehydration, that's when the risk for complications begins. You'll begin to experience sweating, fatigue, thirst and muscle cramps. Left untreated, these cramps will evolve into headaches, dizziness, additional weakness, nausea and vomiting, and the skin may begin to feel cool and moist.


3. Heat stroke: If you've passed through the above stages and still haven't rehydrated or cooled down, then you're likely to develop heat stroke. Yikes! You may experience a fever (which can go above 104 degrees), irrational behavior, confusion, rapid breathing, seizures, hot/red skin, a weak pulse and finally unconsciousness. It's not pretty!