Heat-related illnesses: Symptoms, prevention, and what to do when they strike

Heat indexes are forecasted to hit the high 80s this weekend and with that swelter comes the chance of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Do you know the signs, or what steps to take, should they strike?

According to the CDC, heat stroke occurs when the body loses its ability to regulate its temperature. It can result in death if not treated. Heat stroke is marked by extremely high body temperatures (above 103 degrees), lack of sweating, a rapid/strong pulse, headache, dizziness and nausea. WebMD also adds fatigue, shortness of breath, decreased urination, and convulsions to the symptoms. 

Should you suspect someone of having heat stroke, call for help immediately. The Red Cross recommends you quickly place the victim in water up to the neck. Among other treatments: Douse the victim with cold water, sponge her down with ice-water towels, or cover her with bags of ice. Try these methods for 20 minutes or until emergency personnel arrive on the scene.

Heat exhaustion is a bit different because it can develop over several days as a result of exposure to high temperatures and the failure to replace fluids. Heat exhaustion is not typically life-threatening, but should be treated immediately. According to WebMD, the symptoms of heat exhaustion include excessive thirst, fatigue, heavy sweating, nausea, headaches, muscle cramping, confusion, slow/weakened heartbeat, and agitation.

For those with suspected heat exhaustion, the Red Cross recommends moving the person to a cooler environment with circulating air from a fan or air conditioner. Loosen or remove as much clothing as possible and apply cool cloths to the skin while providing about 4 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes. Sports drinks or fruit juice are recommended as they will replenish lost electrolytes.

If you plan on spending an extended period of time outside for work or leisure, stay hydrated with cool (non-alcoholic) beverages, wear lightweight clothing, and rest when you can.