ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — During the summer months, hot summer temperatures can combine with high humidity which can turn deadly. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two common, but very different, heat-related illnesses — each of which is accompanied by different symptoms which need to be treated as such.
While we are all susceptible to heat-related illness, some are more likely to fall victim to extreme heat than others. The elderly and children are usually more vulnerable to extreme heat because their bodies tend to not be as healthy or as resilient.
Our bodies are designed to sweat in order to cool us down. That sweat evaporates into the air, and it cools our skin. However, when the air is humid, that high moisture content in the air makes it difficult for that sweat to evaporate. Thus, our bodies will have a harder time cooling down.
Heat exhaustion or heat stroke can occur when our bodies overheat.
“[With] heat exhaustion, the person is sweating. They’ll typically have cool, pale skin. They’ll typically be awake, be talking to you,” explained Capt. Drew Abel, a paramedic with Roanoke Fire-EMS.
“[With] heat stroke, the person is no longer sweating. They may be nauseated, may be vomiting. They may begin losing consciousness. They are not able to stay awake anymore,” added Abel, describing the different symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
The loss of consciousness is a sign the body is redirecting blood flow to more vital organs. This could lead to organ failure in other parts of the body.
Abel warns this is a sign the person needs to be taken to the emergency room for immediate medical attention.
In times of heat exhaustion, you can help by moving the person to a cooler environment and offering water.
However, there are times when you should not give water to the person suffering from a heat-related illness.
“If someone is not able to stay awake or they are unconscious or losing consciousness, you would not want to give that person water. They could aspirate or choke on it,” advised Abel.
As always, prevention is key.
Remember these tips for preventing heat-related illness.
- Limit your time outdoors during the peak heating of the day — during the afternoon, for instance. Try to complete your activities in the morning or evening when it’s cooler.
- Wear appropriate clothing that will allow your skin to breathe.
- Try to come inside in the air conditioning from time to time to help yourself cool down.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty; you could already be dehydrated.
For breaking news delivered to you, subscribe to WFXR’s breaking news email list