Summer is the most awaited time of the year, where the outdoors calls out to everyone, young and old alike. It is the holiday season when all the activities are planned outdoors and the sunny weather is enjoyed to the fullest. Barbeques, pool parties, picnics, and outdoor sports are all eagerly planned and enjoyed in the summer months.

However, the summer days also bring with them common summer hazards, especially serious conditions, such as heat stroke and dehydration. These are common occurrences which can be quite grave; their occurrence is attributed to the summer months and the accompanying excessive heat and weather conditions.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke is an extreme condition resulting from a combination of outside heat and rising temperatures that beat the cooling mechanism of the body, leading to a drastic rise in the body’s temperatures during which the core heat of the body soars up to 40 c or 104 F in adults and approximately 40.5 c or 105 F in children. When suffering from heat stroke, the body fails to sweat in order to cool down. This rise in the core heat is also accompanied by a change in one’s mental status.

Heat stroke is caused by extreme heat in the environment, doing a vigorous activity in the sun, and during high levels of humidity in which the body gets dehydrated. Those at higher risk are children, the elderly, and patients suffering from mental illness. Obese people or those suffering from poor blood circulation are also prone to suffer from heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat stroke include dizziness, rise in temperatures of the body, flushed skin, headaches, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, seizures, hallucinations, disorientation, and loss of consciousness.

The best treatment involves cooling off the patient by taking them to a cool, shaded area, and removing clothes to pour water or use ice packs in the armpits or groin in order to cool down. In severe situations, electrolytes can be given via IV.

Dehydration

This is a heat-related condition where the body loses its water content either due to overexposure to the sun or by not consuming enough water in the heat. Sometimes conditions such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and medication use can also cause dehydration.

The typical symptoms of dehydration include dry skin, thirst, fatigue, urination becoming less frequent, dry mouth and mucous membranes, dizziness, increased breathing and heart rate, confusion, and lightheadedness. Children display symptoms such as listlessness, crying without tears, not urinating for hours, dry tongue and mouth, and irritability. Eyes, cheeks, and abdomen also appear sunken.

The treatment for dehydration includes replenishing the body with fluids, either in the form of fluids and oral electrolytes or sports drinks that rehydrate, in the case of mild dehydration. For moderate cases, giving fluids through IV might be necessary, whereas severe cases need immediate medical attention.

Both heat-related conditions—heat stroke and dehydration—can be prevented by staying appropriately hydrated, maintaining the electrolyte balance, wearing loose-fitting, light-colored clothes, partaking in physically exhausting activities in the later part of the day, and avoiding the direct sun. Wearing sunglasses and hats to protect against the sun and taking appropriate measures to avoid extended exposure to the sun, especially for the elderly and children, are recommended.