Beware Heat Induced Illnesses

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on July 5, 2011

It is summer in the Northern hemisphere and the fact that it is hot has probably not escaped your notice.  Of course, hot is relative.  In the summer of 1980, we left record heat here in Texas of up to 113 and spent some time in England, Germany, and Italy.  People were dying there because it was 85, an extreme heat wave for them.

Whatever your heat tolerance, some things can make you sick in the heat much faster.  Many medications make you sun sick quicker than normal.  Wearing the protective clothing required when spraying many pesticides can keep your body from being able to regulate its temperature normally.  Working in the hot sun with no shade doesn’t help, either.

Ideally, you work in your garden early in the morning or late in the evening, when it is cooler.  Sometimes, though, you have to work in the heat of the day.  Make sure you drink enough fluid to help your body stay cooler.  Much like a radiator boiling dry, your body overheats without enough fluid.  If you are not having to go to the bathroom at least once an hour, you are not drinking enough.  At the same time, do not drink more than 12 quarts in any 24 hour period.

If you work outside, know the signs of the three levels of heat illness:  heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.  Heat cramps start, obviously, with cramps in the muscles.  This is usually caused by an imbalance in the electrolytes so needs to be treated with a sports drink or other electrolyte rich fluid.  Getting out of the heat is important, too.  Heat exhaustion is more serious.  According to OSHA, “the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion are headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, confusion, thirst, heavy sweating and a body temperature greater than 100.4°F. ”  You must leave the heat and get inside, slowly sip water, and not go back out until your body temperature is normal.  You also need to call your doctor and report this, as it can have long lasting negative effects.

Finally, heat stroke is a medical emergency.  The body is no longer perspiring, cannot cool itself, and is severely overheated.  Confusion, loss of consciousness, and death are imminent.  Call 911 and get help if you or a companion reach this stage.  Getting out of the heat is important, but not sufficient.  Going for medical care is a must.

Hopefully, you will never experience a heat related illness.  However, knowing the symptoms of them will help you in case you or a companion get too hot. Fluid, rest, shade, those are the things that help prevent heat related illnesses.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben from Green Powder July 6, 2011 at 11:14 am

I didn’t know that medications can actually make you sick faster from sun exposure. Glad I’m not on any prescriptions. I had a friend that died of heat stroke while in the Army. He went out on a training mission into the desert and didn’t report back. It was really sad. He just pushed it too hard.
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Stephanie Suesan Smith July 6, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Lots of medications cause sun sensitivity. It catches people unaware because they don’t think they are getting that much sun, but get really sick.


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