Perspiration is the body's main method of regulating its temperature and it is generally an effective system. As sweat evaporates off the skin heat is taken with it and resulting in the cooling of the body. Without this method the body would quickly overheat ultimately resulting in death. Because of this, anything that impairs the body's temperature regulation is hazardous.
A heat emergency, therefore, occurs when the body's temperature regulatory system is unable to maintain normal body temperature. The surrounding temperature doesn't necessarily have to be extreme as some people can react to seemingly bearable temperatures.
Heat Emergency Classifications
In order of increasing seriousness, these are the three classifications for heat emergencies.
- EMS (Emergency Medical System 9-1-1) should be activated for anyone who is semi-conscious or worse; having trouble breathing; appears confused; extremely weak; or vomits and can not take in fluids.
- There are some medical conditions that will be more easily aggravated with a heat emergency such as asthma, some heart conditions, upper respiratory infections, emphysema, and bronchitis.
- Some medications can make a person more prone to suffering a heat emergency. These include diuretics, water pills, psychiatric drugs, anti-Parkinson drugs, antidepressants, and antihistamines all of which cause some level of dehydration.
- The elderly and very young are more susceptible because their bodies are less able to regulate their temperature.
Preventing Heat Emergencies
The good thing about heat emergencies is that they can be prevented with the some forethought. Here are some prevention techniques:
- Avoid activity in hot, humid weather.
- Always stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
- Take regular breaks from activity.
- Wear loose fitting and breathable clothing.
- Stay out of direct sunlight. Aim to be active during the early morning or late evening when the sun is at its weakest.
- Avoid drinking alcoholic or caffeinated drinks.
- Use moving air from fans, wind, and air-conditioning units to assist with the evaporation of moisture from the skin.
- Avoid the use of saunas and whirlpools. Stay out of warm environments such as gyms, aerobic classes, and stuffy rooms.