Health & Medicine

Knowing the signs of heatstroke can save your life

These scorching days are a reminder of the danger of heat-related illnesses.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke can affect anyone, but they particularly afflict the very old and very young.

Heat exhaustion can make you sick, but heatstroke can kill you. Knowing the difference in symptoms can be life-saving.

The first signs that you might be overheating are muscle cramps, said Dr. Bjorn Peterson, an emergency room doctor with HealthPartners.

The next stage is heat exhaustion, when you start to feel pretty lousy,” Peterson said.

Common symptoms include:

▪  Nausea

▪  Dizziness

▪  A gray or pale appearance

▪  Cool and clammy skin

But even in this condition, you are able to sweat — one of the ways the body gets rid of heat.

“The water evaporates off our skin and into the air. When it’s humid, you can’t do that, because the moisture content in the air is too high. That’s what we’re getting into this week,” Peterson said.

If not treated, heat exhaustion can turn into heatstroke. That’s when a body can’t cool quickly enough, and the core body temperature rises to a dangerous level.

Typical signs of heatstroke are:

▪  Hot and dry skin

▪  Confusion

▪  Rapid pulse

At that point, it’s a medical emergency that requires immediate action.

Get anyone showing signs of heatstroke out of the sun, and call for medical help, Peterson said. Also, cool them off quickly by dousing them with cold water and putting fans on them. Or put them into a bathtub with ice water.

If you insist on exercising outside, take some precautions, Peterson said. Drink plenty of water, but don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Pre-hydrate and pace yourself during your workout. And listen to your body.

“It’s about common sense and knowing your body’s limits,” Peterson said.