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Summer survival guide: What to do if you get heat exhaustion or heat stroke

We all know summertime means bad hair days and high electric bills, but it can also cause heat-related health issues.

HOUSTON — Houston’s heat and humidity can be downright brutal, and they can also make you sick. 

Everyone should know the symptoms and how to treat dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

The CDC warns that high body temperatures from heat stroke can lead to organs shutting down, brain damage or even death.

When it comes to heat-related illnesses, senior citizens, babies and children up to 4 years old are the most vulnerable. People who are overweight or have heart and respiratory illnesses are also at higher risk.

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“I estimate more than 90% of heat-related health complaints can be avoided if you’re aware of the dangers and follow the necessary advice. It’s often about using common sense, which can slip our minds when we’re feeling hot and bothered,” said Deepa Iyengar with UTHealth.

Prevent heat-related illnesses

  • Drink lots of water.
  • If you’re working or exercising outside, limit it to early morning or the evening when it’s cooler.
  • If you have to be outside during the heat, wear light-colored, loose clothing.
  • Do not leave children, senior citizens or pets in an unattended vehicle.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and use sunscreen.
  • Seek air conditioning. If you’re not at home, consider visiting malls, movie theaters or libraries.

Symptoms of dehydration

  • Thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Dry, cool skin
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps 

How to treat dehydration

  • Move inside if possible
  • Drink water or sports drinks with electrolytes
  • Eat regular meals to replace salt lost in sweat
  • Steer clear of alcohol

Symptoms of heat exhaustion

  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, pale and clammy skin
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fast, weak pulse

How to treat heat exhaustion

  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen or remove your clothing
  • Use cool, wet cloths or take a cool bath
  • Sip water or drinks containing electrolytes
  • If you’re throwing up or can’t cool down, get medical help

Heat exhaustion can then lead to heat stroke when the body is no longer able to produce sweat, meaning it can’t cool down. Your body temperature can rise to 106 degrees or higher in 10 to 15 minutes.

Symptoms of heat stroke

  • Body temperature of 103 degrees or higher
  • Hot, red, dry or damp skin
  • Throbbing headache
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Fast, strong pulse
  • Fainting

How to treat heat stroke

  • Call 911
  • Move the person to a cooler place
  • Use cool cloths or bath
  • Do not give the person anything to drink

Be sure you check on elderly family, friends and neighbors to make sure they’re staying cool this summer.

And don't forget your four-legged family members! Here are some tips to keep pets safe in the heat.

Sources: CDC, UT Health

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