The Deadly Effects Of Heat: How Harmful Can The Heat Be To Your Health And Heart?

The dead heat of the summer is upon us and if you live in certain parts of the country you’re most likely feeling the dreadful effects of the debilitating heat.

Did you know you can actually get very sick from the heat? In fact thousands of people suffer from heat exhaustion and heat rash every year during the summer months and most likely don’t know they are sick from the heat. Heat exhaustion has been mistaken for the flu and depression among other things.

There are many different ways to refer to illness from the heat; heatstroke, heat rash, heat exhaustion and others. The reason it is so important to understand these conditions is because they are more common than we tend to think and they’re more serious than people think they are.

Also, once you have an issue with the heat such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke you are more susceptible to it in the future and should really stay out of the extreme heat.

First of all we will discuss the different kinds of heat issues you can suffer from.

1. Typically heat stroke is thought to be the most serious of the heat disorders. Heat stroke is also referred to as sun stroke and hyperthermia which is the opposite of hypothermia. Heat stroke occurs when your body cannot effectively deal with the heat.

Heat stroke is essentially caused when your body’s heat regulating properties cannot deal with the heat because your body is so overwhelmed by the extreme heat.

This causes your body temperature to rise considerably and this is considered an emergency situation and emergency medical care is needed.

The difference between heat stroke and a fever is the fever comes from illness and sickness within the body and works its way out, while heat stroke begins outside the body and works its way in, debilitating the body’s ability to cool itself.

2. Heat exhaustion is a bit less extreme case of heat related illness and does not usually require medical attention.

( photo by firexbrat )

3. Heat rash is actually very common in the humid summer months of the Midwest especially. Heat rash is also referred to as Miliaria. Essentially heat rash is caused when severe heat and humidity cause the sweat glad ducts to get plugged and bacteria and dead skin cells cannot work their way out of the body.

Heat rash will look like mosquito bites, rashes or acne and is most common on the face and neck as well as the scrotum and underneath the breasts. When you have heat rash it will itch uncontrollably and oftentimes you will feel a ‘pins and needles’ sensation.

Heat rash is extremely uncomfortable. There are three different levels of Miliaria; Miliaria crystalline which is the most mild kind of heat rash, Miliaria rubra which is the most common form of heat rash and Miliaria profunda which is the most severe form of heat rash.

The symptoms of heat rash as discussed above are red itchy rashes or pimples or bumps that itch and look like mosquito bites. The symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion are very similar, the ones for heat stroke being more severe. Some of the symptoms for heat stroke and heat exhaustion are:

  1. Extreme fatigue
  2. Pale complexion
  3. Weakness
  4. Dizzy
  5. Headaches
  6. Heavy sweating
  7. Nausea or vomiting
  8. Fainting

( photo by Tsja! )

Left untreated, a serious case of heat exhaustion can become heat stroke. So how do you treat heat exhaustion?

  1. Stay out of the heat and stay in an air conditioned area.
  2. Drink plenty of water and make sure you are always hydrated.
  3. Get plenty of rest. Your body is using its resources to protect from heat stroke.
  4. Take cold showers and baths.
  5. Wear little clothing and make sure it is lightweight clothing. You need to keep your pores open so your body can sweat out the heat exhaustion.

There are certain things to keep in mind whether you are suffering from heat rash, heat exhaustion or you believe you may have borderline heat stroke. Keep your shades or blinds drawn throughout the daylight hours to keep any heat from the sun out of your home.

Do not go outside especially to exert yourself such as mowing the lawn. Have plenty of fans going in your home and preferably on your body. If you have a multi-level home try to stay in the basement or on the first floor.

Heat and humidity rise so you do not want to be on the top level of your home. Try not to use the oven or stove and definitely avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine will dehydrate you, so it is very important to stay hydrated and avoid these sorts of things.

( photo by Kaitiel )

Also remember that if you have suffered from heat exhaustion or heat rash in the past you are extremely susceptible to suffering from it again in the future. In fact after experiencing a heat related illness or condition your body does not have the tolerance to heat and humidity that it may have once had.

Typical activities that friends and family do such as playing softball in 90 degree heat or boating and swimming in 94 degree heat will affect you and your body much differently and much more severely.

Even if you haven’t technically suffered from heat exhaustion or heat stroke it is always a good idea to be smart about the heat exposure you receive. Always keep well hydrated in the heat and always wear sunscreen. Also, after exposing yourself to heat take a cold shower and go to an air conditioned space. These will all keep your heart and health safe from the heat.

Posted in: General HealthSpecial Features

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