Heat related injuries are usually common amongst athletes, construction workers, and others that exert themselves in the warmer weather. A summertime campout with elevated temperature and /or humidity can also lead to these types of injuries if you’re not careful.
The good news is that most heat related injuries are completely avoidable and treatable if you listen to the early warning signs and adjust your activity level. Many athletes, for example, ignore the warning signs of heat cramps and push themselves to more severe conditions of heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.
Below are the various levels of heat related injuries, their symptoms, and the actions you should take to treat them:
Everyone wants to come home from their vacation with a tan, and while a little Vitamin D brought on by the sun is a good thing, sunburn can be a serious injury if you aren’t too careful. Sunburn can lead to first and sometimes second-degree burns. Superficial burns (1st degree) usually take less than a week to heal, but can be very painful. Sunburn that includes red dry skin with weeping blisters (2nd degree) can be more susceptible to infection, more painful, and can take 3-4 weeks to heal often time with permanent scarring. A little sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) can lead to a happier campout!
Heat cramps are usually the first sign that your body is starting to have trouble with the hot weather. The symptoms are painful cramps in the legs and abdomen and can be treated with rest and cool water. These are the least severe of the heat related injuries, but if ignored that can turn into a more serious and even life-threatening condition.
Heat exhaustion is more serious than heat cramps and in addition to the muscle cramps, symptoms can include cool, moist or pale skin, along with headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and exhaustion. For heat exhaustion, remove the victim from the heat, loosen their clothing, apply wet clothes to their skin and fan them to bring down their body temperature. If they’re conscious, give them cool water to drink in small amounts (4 ounces or ½ cup at a time). If the victim refuses water, loses consciousness or vomits, call for immediate medical attention (9-1-1 or ambulance).
If the symptoms of heat cramps and heat exhaustion are ignored, heat stroke can develop. Heat stroke is when the body’s systems are completely overwhelmed by the heat and they start to shut down. Heat stroke is a very serious medial emergency can be fatal if immediate medical attention is not received. The symptoms will include red, hot, dry skin, changes in consciousness, rapid, weak pulse, and rapid, shallow breathing. After calling 9-1-1, follow the steps for heat exhaustion to cool the victim’s body temperature. If you give the victim water, be careful to give it to them in small amounts and ensure that they drink it slowly. If they lose consciousness, lie them on their side and watch for signals of breathing problems.
Heat related injuries from sunburn to heat stroke are largely avoidable. Make sure that everyone is aware of the dangers and takes the necessary precautions. Drinking sunscreen, taking periodic breaks, and drinking water throughout the day can help you avoid these types of injuries. Drinking diuretics such as alcohol and caffeinated products will exerting yourself in the sun can make you and your loved ones more susceptible. Be smart and mix the right amount of fun and safety on your trip!