With the temperatures warming up and vaccination rates rising, many people are looking forward to spending a lot of time outside in the heat this summer. As much as we all want to get out onto the beach or spread out on a picnic blanket in the park, it’s worth remembering: there can be ‘too much of a good thing’ when it comes to heat.
Heatstroke and dehydration are both dangerous, and it’s worth keeping an eye out for these and other heat-related syndromes as you and yours begin to spend more time outside. From 2004 to 2018, there was an average of 702 deaths per year related to heat in the United States, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That means that to stay safe, it pays to know the signs of heatstroke and dehydration. You’ll want to know how to avoid these problems in the first place, as well as some relevant first aid. You might want to consider getting trained in how to respond, so consider looking for a class near you. For example, if you’re in Australia, you can give a site like australiawidefirstaid.com.au a look.
Read on to learn five first aid tips for heatstroke and dehydration:
Know the symptoms
You need to know what you’re dealing with if you want to offer first aid for a heat-related health problem. Dehydration can happen if your body loses more water than it takes in. You might experience:
- Dry mouth or skin
- Heightened heart rate
- Dark urine (or urinating less).
Heatstroke can result from untreated heat exhaustion or an increase in your core body temperature that’s often accompanied by dehydration. It doesn’t have to be hot outside to suffer from this either. The symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Warm, pale skin
- Heavy sweating.
If you notice these symptoms, it’s worth following up with some of the first aid tips below. Others may help you prevent these issues from coming up in the first place.
Staying properly hydrated can be a major help in avoiding dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
If you’re working out, for example, you should make sure to bring water or a sports drink with you. Since your heart rate will be elevated and you’ll be sweating, it’s important to keep hydration in mind. Be especially careful if you’re going for a hike or will otherwise be away from sources of water for a longer period of time, especially if it’s going to be a hot day.
Rehydrate the right way
If you think you or someone else might be dehydrated, you need to rehydrate. Along with water, drinks like Pedialyte also called an “oral rehydration solution,” can help with mild or moderate cases. They contain carbohydrates and electrolytes, which help your body absorb water.
Be careful not to drink too quickly, as you may end up getting nauseous. You should also make sure you know when to seek medical attention. If you’re too dehydrated, you can’t keep fluids down, or drinking doesn’t help your symptoms, you might need IV fluids. In these cases, you should go to a hospital to get rehydrated quickly.
Get somewhere cool
It may sound obvious, but if you’re having trouble with the heat, staying in a cool environment can help. You can better rehydrate without sweating out more water, for instance. A cooler, preferably air-conditioned environment, is also recommended for heat exhaustion. Remember, if you don’t have the best possible option, look for something better. The shade is better than the sun, for example, and cooled interior space is better than outside.
Find other ways to cool down
Along with getting somewhere cooler, there are other ways you can cool down, which will help. Drinking something cool (that’s nonalcoholic and caffeine-free) is one approach. Another is to loosen or remove clothing or put on something lightweight if you have the option. This will keep you cool and help sweat evaporate better.
You can also take a cool shower if possible. In the same vein, you can use a sponge or rag with cool water to dampen your skin and then fan yourself or the person you’re helping. A towel with cool water applied to the back of the neck is particularly effective.
As with all important health-related emergencies, it pays to call for help or get to a doctor or hospital if you or someone you’re with is in distress. The tips above are some suggestions for what to do before help arrives or on the way. In general, first aid is best delivered by someone who knows what they’re doing, so consider taking a course.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.